By now all of you should be well aware of the news that Thomas Vermaelen has finally gone in for surgery on his troublesome achilles tendon problem.
After waiting and waiting for the natural healing process to do it’s thing — the usual approach to an achilles tendon problem — complications with his problem have forced the Belgian to go under the knife.
There is more than a little bit of the Tomas Rosickys about this injury. What started as a short-term prognosis has ballooned into an exceptionally long-term problem. Vermaelen has not played football since the onset of his problem in early September: a remarkable absence of more than four months from the Arsenal first team.
While the mystery around his return date has been revealed by the relative predictability of his surgery — a prolonged four to six week break is now expected — an important question still remains: do we need to bring another central defender into the side during the transfer window?
While ‘need’ is a word I tend to avoid when writing about transfers — we rarely ever need anybody, contrary to most peoples opinions — my immediate response is that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation and signing a defender would be an excellent idea.
The natural skepticism from Arsenal supporters about players returning when the medical staff predicts they will is understandable: the frustration of watching players like Rosicky, Diaby and Bendtner endure mysteriously long absences for seemingly minor injuries has been almost as painful as the injuries themselves.
It is not unthinkable that, surgery or no surgery, Vermaelen’s problems continue beyond the four to six-week period indicated by the manager and it is for that reason alone that purchasing another central defender would be a smart idea for a team requiring a dynamic finish to have any chance of winning the Premier League this season.
Despite immense criticism from media pundits and supporters alike, statistically our defence has done quite well this season. Sebastien Squillaci stepped in to steady the ship early in the season, Laurent Koscielny has impressed with his up-and-at-them approach despite a handful of judgment-based errors while in recent months Johan Djourou has come on in strides to indicate he is closer than ever to the player I always believed he could be.
Individually these three players have done well but in recent weeks Vermaelen’s absence has started to show. Squillaci played far more football than Wenger would have been expecting him to play and has tired in recent weeks — a little like Marouane Chamakh — and this has put pressure on Djourou and Koscielny. While Koscielny appears to me the sort of player who could get consistently get through 90 minutes twice a week, the fact is that Djourou spent the whole of last season out with a knee problem and if a reoccurence of that problem is going to rear it’s ugly head, it is going to happen around about now.
Wenger’s decision is based on chance: if he believes the three can get through unscathed and provide the rotation necessary to be fresh for a late-season push, he will not buy. If he believes that Djourou or Squillaci are likely to aggravate previous problems from playing too much football then he will. It is as simple as that.
Gary Cahill, Christopher Samba and Sol Campbell (!) have been the names bandied about over the past month or so but if I had my money on anyone coming in it would be Roma’s Philippe Mexes. Pacey, French, experienced, technically-proficient but with a tendency to make the odd mistake (which appears to be a requirement for most Arsenal defenders), he seems to me to be a typical Wenger choice. If Roma choose to let him go, of course.
What’s that, they want him to go? Sounds perfect.
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