Vermaelen’s surgery: what does it mean for the rest of our defence?

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.

Vermaelen has been out for far too long

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.


Have your say on Thomas Vermaelen and our defender situation by leaving a comment.



  1. Dunne is also linked with us today in addition to the names you mentioned in your blog.
    Only Mexes looks to be a realistic target. Well-experienced & available on the cheap. Otherwise, Cahill is hugely overrated just b/c he is English (his price tag doesn’t reflect his talent) & Samba, well, he is quite powerful & intimidating but is he technically good enough to slot into this Arsenal side?
    IMO, TV5 is effectively out for the season unless we are alive on all fronts come the last few weeks of this season. So, there is no question that we need another center-half ASAP. It’s simply impossible to push for every trophy with only 3 CBs.

  2. I’d prefer someone who could fill in at both CB and DM. An injury to Song frightens me. Denilson doesn’t seem to have the err… tenacity to comfortably fill in there. But I think Wenger will end up surprising us with someone not on most people’s radar as usual.

  3. ‘If Arsene thinks!’ right choice of words!.

    I think Arsene thinks of getting Song back to his CB position. And that shud be the only reason for him to gamble from this Transfer Market.

    If tats ever going to happen our midfield will be devastated. With his replacements, Diaby (we may not know when ll he get back!) and Denilson (i dint even want to mention his name here!), we are definetely going to be spineless in our Midfield!.

  4. Phillipe Mexes? I groaned when I read the link. Another French person..I quite like the French contingent amongst our ranks but it seems that Wenger fancies French players over others. That shouldn’t be the case and hopefully, I’m wrong. I do think we need another CB because as brilliant as JD’s performance has been throughout this season, he does need rest and I don’t think that Koscielny and Squillaci can quite cut it. Our players need rest and Wenger had said that the players were probably tired that’s why they lost at Ipswich. If that is the case, which I do believe it to be, then the matches that are important, in the league and barca’s tie and (fingers crossed) more CL matches, will need sharp defenders and we can’t pull that with just 3 defenders. Vermaelen will take time to come back so another CB should be bought. I just don’t really like the idea of Phillipe Mexes. Then again beggars can’t be choosers. However, if we have the luxury of having at least SOME choice, I think Wenger should avoid players like Mexes. I don’t like his form of play. It will cost Arsenal and I just don’t see him as an Arsenal player at all. Good luck to the guys tomorrow night. =)

  5. @ MTY – Richard Dunne is an interesting option. Could it happen? It’s not likely but with Villa wanting to spend money on Bent they might need to recoup some of that. Could be an interesting one to watch. I personally think he’d be good enough but is he happy to come and sit on the bench later in the season?

    @ el bizarron – I agree regarding Song. I would hate to see him pulled back to CB and I don’t like the thought of him being injured. In saying that I think Denilson is appropriate cover for the centre of midfield.

  6. That is a nice thought, for sure lets not gamble with the three, lets not take chance, buy buy buy…….i go for Gary Cahill 1st choice, Philippe Mexes 2nd choice.

  7. Why do we need Denilson as cover for Barca? Song’s fit. If he wasn’t then yes, I would. He played excellently after coming on in the second-half of the first leg at The Emirates last season and performed admirably in the second leg, if my memory serves me correctly.

    In saying that, we’d have to get the balance right in there though and play the right trio to negate their attack.

  8. Denilson is NOT an appropriate cover for the centre of midfield. He’ll never, ever put in a display worthy of a place in the starting XI.

  9. either take the gamble that vermaelen will come back without any issues…or be on the safe side and get another defender…

  10. Read some reports of how Villa looking to get rid of Dunne if they can get Emir Spahic.
    cant help feeling if we ever went for Dunne we would be getting the rough end of that deal.
    Spahic seems to me along with Mexes an ideal solution. dont know too much about him but from viewing some of the stuff out there he appears quite comanding ( hes his country captain), not bad on the ball, may not have premier league experience but at 30 am sure hes seen enough. best of all seems to love taking shots wide of the goal so a perfect fit.

  11. i think wenger should not buy any cb if he is sure that varmelen is comin back. song as a cb cover is just for shory time. life is all abuot risks. take the risk mr wenger and lets see how it will work. after all you need a trophy as much as the fans do need one for a long time now. all the best…Gunners.

  12. please arsene wenger we need trophy this season, u have to sign another center back like Bolton center back cahill, because our rivals like man u fans are booing us.

  13. i tink we shuld go for ezeqial Garay of realmadrid, madrid is ready 2 let him go..we realy nid a gud defender b4 we meet messi again…

  14. If we still want to have the best chances in all competitions, we should sign a new centre back. Considerind FA Cup, Carling Cup (for what remained of it), EPL, UCL, we’ll need rotation, the matches will only get harder from this point on, what if Djourou or Koscielny get injured too, what then? My opinion is that you can’t fight on all competitions with only 2 men at the centre back. Yes, you can use another player on that role, but let’s face it, this would only mean patching things up. We play high level football, we were reminded that so many times this season even against so-called “smaller teams”. It doesn’t have to be real expensive, I get that, is has to fi Arsenal’s play style, I get that too, but he needs to be a centre back.

  15. Grauniad reporting that Wenger is going rest Djorou for the Leeds game and play our reserve team captian who’s only 18. Anyone know much about him? Ignasi Miquel I think his name is.

    We seem to go through these endless transfer saga year after year and it is very boring. Wenger himself admits we nee cover for the position but no moves seem to be in the offing. I would like Cahill from bolton but we won’t meet their askng price. We were linked with Hangeland at Fulham a year ago but no one seems to be talking about him anymore. No doubt Wenger will rope in another no name Frenchman and we’ll have to hope for the best. I agree it would be abad move to put Song back at CB as it would weaken the midfield.

  16. Everyone knows we’re going to stand pat. No one in. Don’t get me wrong I’d love see someone in but I’m just being realistic and looking at it from Arsene and the boards point of view.

    We’ll make due and when Squillaci, Djourou and Kos get their knocks Song is going to have to cover. I’d like to see Eastmond in the defensive midfield role despite his struggles this year. Denni just doesn’t cut it for me as a defensive midfielder but is acceptable further up the pitch.

    Either way though it’s not going to matter who we put in the midfield if Cesc isn’t there. He is our talisman. Our midfield looks terrible with out him regardless of who is in it. It’s rediculous how much better the team performs when he is on the pitch. Everyone plays better and looks good. All of the youngsters look like the next big thing (including Denni!). If he gets a knock or has to rest or whatever the midfield is going to struggle mightily. If we’re going to bring one player in I’d rather it be the big money creative passing sort that just maybe will take over for Cesc when he leaves. Unfortunately those players are not abundant and out of our price range.

  17. The Mirror have also linked us with Ciani from Bordeaux.

    I rate him – consistent performer, with height (6’2) and a recent French cap against his name. Although, he still has two years to go on a four year contract.

  18. We should have bought one already. It’s exasperating. It’s not as though January sneaked up unexpectedly and surprised everyone is it? It’s impossible to get any sense out of Arsene when he’s asked about transfers. It’s all obfuscation and waffle. ‘We’ve had many offers’. – what? No, Arsene, you’re supposed to make the offer to them…’It has to click in my head’ -?!! How about Leeds knocking us out of the FA Cup because our defense is weak. Will that click in your f***ing head? And he’s saying he can’t find anyone who can come up to the quality of what we! Oh, yeah, like, we have the best defense in the league, mate. Ask anybody – if you want a good fricking laugh. If we end up buying no one – and then go back to leaking goals in every match again, as we did up until this month, I will be very very angry.
    My choice would be Chris Samba because he already has great Premier League experience. Knows all the opposition teams and players. Is 6 foot 4 and is a leader. Plus he’d jump at the chance of coming to us. I’m not bothered about his technical qualities. He’d be there to defend not join in the passing merry-go-round. Nobody’s ever questioned his ability to defend.
    As for Dunne – yeuch! No thanks. No where near good enough.

  19. Good Morning all, Can i divert you to the below link:
    What do you think?
    I must say we have lacked the leader and I cant say denilson is wrong at all and must agree 100% with the article:

    Looking for a Leader?

    I’ve been saying that Denilson hasn’t done anything of note all season. Well, he has now.

    Denilson gave a recent interview to Arsenal Brasil. I’m not sure exactly how recently the interview was given, but it has to have been pretty recent because they specifically talk about the Wigan match, which was only a couple of weeks ago.

    It’s a pretty rare interview in that it’s so long, and unedited — unlike the 90-second, heavily-edited interview excerpts we get from Arsenal TV Online, this is just a guy sitting down and talking about anything and everything for almost 25 minutes. In what looks to be someone’s bedroom with a sheet nailed to the wall. But I digress. And before I forget it, kudos to the interviewer, who really asked some good, tough, insightful questions.

    Anyway, let’s get right down to it. You can watch the entire interview in its entirety over at Arseblog, and it’s pretty good. But here’s the money quote, the one that’s going to make all the papers tomorrow. The following exchange happened:

    Interviewer: It is widely said that Arsenal lack leadership on the pitch, for example, the incident with Ramsey, if you look at what happened with Eduardo before. We were very close to the title, and after I spoke to Gilberto he told me it really had an effect on the squad, but in the Ramsey incident, you could see that it was different. Sol Campbell was the man who went there to motivate the players. So my question is, do you think we lack that leadership on the pitch?

    Denilson: I think that we lack leadership, and without leadership we cannot move forward. You can walk forward a bit, but then the same that’s happened will happen again. Those are things that happen, that make us very sad indeed. But I don’t see a player at Arsenal who is a real leader. I can’t see a single one. Even if Fabregas is the captain, he is not a leader to me. It does not depend on the player’s age or experience, there are players who’ll walk on the pitch and will show that leadership, but that’s something of the personality of the player, he was born with that. So today, not only Fabregas, but the important thing is that everyone is talking to each other, everyone understands each other, that is what is helping us this season. And the results are coming, little by little, but they are coming, and we’re second or third in the league table, so we have to keep it that way, always talking to each other, always working hard in training, that’s the only way things can work out.

    Interviewer: So you think we lack a leader, for example Gilberto Silva?

    Denilson: For me Gilberto is a leader, he is surely.

    Interviewer: So you think we need a reference, a guy like Sol Campbell?

    Denilson: We do, we do. A leader is always important in a team.

    Interviewer: Today, who are the closest to leaders in the squad?

    Denilson: I can’t see one.

    Interviewer: There isn’t then a person who’ll take the responsibility to himself?

    Denilson: I can’t see that.

    Now. Your immediate reaction to this may have been one of the following things:

    1. Why the frak is he saying this publicly?
    2. It’s classless and disloyal to throw your captain and everyone else in the squad under the bus like this.
    3. Who is he, the guy who can’t even be bothered to run back on a counterattack, to criticize anyone else?
    4. If he thinks leadership is so important, who doesn’t HE try to step up and provide some of that?
    5. Even if he’s right, how is this helpful?

    And I wouldn’t disagree with any of these. And I suspect this will be the reaction of most Gooners today. However, after the dust settles and anger fades, we may have to face the disturbing possibility that he may be absolutely, positively, 100% correct. Because the thing is, this isn’t Balotelli, who says something seemingly calculated to offend in every single interview. And watch it for yourself, that isn’t taken out of context — the interviewer certainly cannot be accused of trying to trick him into saying something he didn’t mean — he asked him a simple question, and Denilson took it in that direction.

    In a way, the biggest sign that there’s probably something to this is the rest of the interview. It was 23 minutes long. He was asked about Wenger, the medical staff, the goalkeepers, the defenders — pretty much every topic that Arsenal fans love to bitch about, and had ample opportunity to criticize anyone else. But he didn’t. He gave answers as measured and scripted as if Wenger himself had written them out for him on cards beforehand (although he did say that he thought Almunia was our best keeper, which is a pretty compelling argument for mandatory drug testing). And he generally came across as a nice, calm, relatively intelligent (if not particularly insightful) player. And that’s worrying. If something like this had come from some idiot like Adebayor, we could write it off a bit and ignore it. But watching this interview, you just get the sense that Denilson is saying this because it’s true. And that’s a problem for Arsenal.

    Leadership is, of course, impossible to quantify. It doesn’t show up in statistics. But I don’t know a single football fan who doesn’t think it matters. And I do know that when Tony Adams was captain, we won things. When Patrick Vieira was captain, we won things. With either of those guys, you just got the sense that this was their team, they were in charge, and if someone didn’t do their jobs, they were going to hear about it, and possibly feel it, in the locker room after the game. So most of the time, players did their jobs.

    We haven’t won anything since those guys left. Players like . . . well, Denilson, for one, seemingly feel free to amble around the pitch, conceding stupid penalties, giving the ball away, and generally not doing the things they need to do to help us win. And you just don’t get the sense that there’s that urgency — anyone who has played sports of any kind knows how powerful fear can be. It’s not the only motivating factor, or even necessarily the best one . . . but it’s a pretty damn good one. If you know you’re going to get dressed down by your coach or your teammate in front of everyone if you don’t do your job, it really does make you work harder to do your job. Most militaries are based on this simple but effective motivational principle.

    But with Arsenal, you just don’t get the sense that there is that fear there. And that is a problem, because it hurts our performances, and hurts our chances to win. Let me put it this way — if Adams or Vieira was our captain, don’t you think they would deal with some of the problems we have in the squad right now? Not necessarily the old “bar of soap in a tube sock” prison-style “deal with it,” but they’d find a way, don’t you think? I just don’t think Arshavin would be half-assing it around, standing around when we don’t have the ball, Charlie Brown walking when the slightest thing goes wrong, etc. I think he’d get an earful and he’d learn some new English words, and he’d have to think twice before he did it again. But that’s just not there right now.

    Maybe this is an overreaction. I do think Cesc seems to be growing into the leadership role a lot more. Guys like van Persie and Nasri are passionate and talk to their teammates a lot on the pitch. Vermaelen seems absolutely like leadership/captain material to me. Maybe Denilson is just misguided, and doesn’t view those players as “leaders” in the same way that he viewed Gilberto and Slo as leaders b/c the current squad is his own age range and he doesn’t put them up on a pedastal the way he does older players. I’m not sure.

    But I do know that watching that interview gave me the impression that he absolutely understood what he was saying, and meant every word. He thinks this is a team with a good coach, and skilled players, and good teammates, but he obviously thinks we could use a guy to take charge and be the leader. And it’s not like what we have seen with our own eyes doesn’t support what he says. It was disturbing in a way to see Slo be by far the best player in an awful match against Spurs that killed off our title hopes last season — he was a guy who was only here for 5 months, why did he care so much more than anyone else on the team?

    I’m not sure what the answer is. Cesc is still very young, so I don’t know that it’s fair to criticize him too much for leadership failures. He’s still young. Yes, I know, Tony Adams became captain when he was 21, but you know what, we’ll never have another captain like Tony Adams, so that’s not really a fair comparison. I think Cesc takes his role seriously, and wants to be a good captain. He talks to his teammates on the pitch, he intervenes on their behalf with the referee, he carries himself as a good representative and ambassador of the club. But the bottom line is that if his teammates don’t view him as a leader, and at least one of them is willing to publicly state that he does not, Cesc may not be the right man for the job. If that’s the case, do we let him grow into it, or give it to someone else?

    As I’ve said several times already, I don’t have any answers. And I’m not sure anyone does. That’s the problem. Denilson has said something which may have confirmed many of our worst fears about the club as currently constituted, and it’s a problem which is: (a) potentially serious enough to keep us from winning trophies; and (b) not easily fixable.

    Big thanks to Arsenal Brasil and Arseblog for conducting the interview and bringing it to the masses, respectively.

  20. Forget the shit… AW will think it out… For now RVP has already scored three and hit the wood twice. Beware Tevez & Berbitov!!!

  21. Gents….

    We need to be a little bit careful of how literally we take what Denilson has said….For one thing he didnt say that fabregas was a bad captain….they were specifically talking about the change in reactions from the team from when Edu broke his leg to when Ramsey broke it….think Gallas to Campbell …and how these players have the leadership quality….he then goes on to say that maybe Arsenal dont really have a player that has that quality in abundance…We have players like Cesc that can do the job.

    He clearly states his love for Arsenal, Wenger and the whole team….he does, as you would expect, talk of his passion to return to the “Tricolor” at some point in his career.

  22. Denilson interview –

    The photo (in the link above) hopefully clarifies the situation, as Cesc clearly put it!

  23. As for the defense we surely need someone in that position. Our professor never does what we really want. So i think the option of Mexes or anyone will not happen as he thinks buying ,will be surplus when Vermaelen comes back next season . Possibly he will cover the position with Eboue or Song.He thinks about what happens when Song is pulled to CB with denilson playing DMF. He can’t play Wilshere on all games and a injury will cause problems. So he goes and buys another midfield player possibly to cover our midfield. Genuine thought.

    For the Denilson interview . When these lads are going to understand that they should start acting like leaders rather than looking for leaders.he will never find a leader among them because he has grown with the team.

    I am a software geek and what happens in our field is that when the leader moves away then everyone in the team acts themselves as leader, finishes the tasks and start helping others. If someone steps back then the guy/girl loses the chance of becoming the next leader.

    So its lack of knowledge for denilson, he will understand this when he matures enough. Until then forgive the kid.

  24. and everyone knows we have genuine leaders in VanPersie , Nasri , Vermaelen, Walcott and Fabregas

  25. This is a clear misunderstanding nothing more he is talking about a leader, and as in a leader i think he is talking about someone experienced and bites into the team whenever they are not performing, that’s all, nothing is aimed at fabregas here simple.

  26. @Voleygun,

    I have no doubts that if Mexes was brought in, he’d partner Vermaelen as our first choice CB’s.

    That’s just me though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.