Arsenal have announced the signing of defender Jurriën Timber from Ajax, making him our second signing of the summer. While the details are still emerging, his arrival continues or at least re-establiehs a vital and productive relationship with a club of similar spirit, values, and style. From Ajax, we’ve welcomed Overmars, Bergkamp (admittedly by way of Inter), Vermaelen, Sanogo (cough), and now Timber.Continue reading
Let me just say for starters that I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with clauses inserted into contracts that may or may not get triggered. We endured quite enough of that last summer, thank you very much. The question of whether or not Barça will have to pay us this pittance does not matter. We’re talking, after all, of £3m. That’s such a small fraction of our annual budget that it barely merits the mention. Instead of harping on about that, why not crow about the £16.7m we got for an out-of-form centre-back who couldn’t find his way into our starting line-up, got injured at his new club, and made just one appearance, and that in their last league match of the season against relegation-threatened Deportiva La Coruna by which point Barça had all but won La Liga.
For context’s sake, we’ve earned far-more from winning the FA Cup than Barça would have to pay us. Estimates vary and this season’s stats have not yet been released, so we’ll go with last season’s numbers. Our run to the 2014 FA Cup final netted us some £4.2m, and it stands to reason that winning the 2015 FA Cup win earn us that and more. In other words, thanks, Tommy, for your services. I’m not saying we should wantonly walk away from £3m; I’m merely pointing out that the transfer of Vermaelen may have already been harvested. His transfer-fee is close to those of Calum Chambers (£17.8) and Danny Welbeck (£17.6m) and exceeds those of Mathieu Debuchy (£13.2m) and Gabriel (£13.2). Of the four, only Debuchy is likely to have commanded the weekly wages that Vermaelen was on. Even then, I’d wager that each of those four delivered more to his new club than Vermaelen did.
In other words, don’t lose sleep over whether or not we’re due this money from Barça. I despise the club almost as much as I do Tottenham or Chelsea, but I’m not about to grovel over what amounts to half of an Andre Santos transfer-free.
Further afield, I have to admit to a bit of drool after the performances of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba. We’ve been heavily linked with each of them, and after their rather-diffident performances in the Champions League final, one has to wonder what their futures hold. This has to have been a swan-song of sorts for Gianluigi Buffon (37) and Andrea Pirlo (36), as well as for recent additions like Patrice Evra (34) and Carlos Tevez (31). Heck, Pogba and Alvaro Morata were the only starters younger than 28. One way of looking at this is to suggest that Pogba and Vidal are prized assets who must be sold to finance Juventus’s summer ambitions; another is to suggest that the two are a foundation around which a new squad must be built.
‘Twixt the two, Pogba is probably the pricier. He’s only 22, and according to what I’ve seen on youtube and various Vines, there’s nothing he can’t do. Strange that he didn’t do so much of that against Barça. Could we count on Arsenal’s status as a French club in England to lure him back to the Prem? Man U apparently want him back, but would he be willing to wait on them qualifying for the group-stage? They have a potentially nettlesome qualifier to fight through, which might be enough to delay their deal or give Pogba pause. Moving down the scale a bit, could Alexis whisper sweet-nothings into Vidal’s ear, convincing his countryman of the virtues of playing for the Arsenal?
Surely, the apparent arrival of Sami Khedira, who is out of contract with Real Madrid, suggests that Juventus will be willing to part with one or other, Pogba or Vidal. If we could pounce on either, the transfer-fee alone would likely rise to the £40m mark, if not higher. How does that stand in contrast to, say, a £30m fee for the Prem-tested Morgan Schneiderlin?
There are nearly three months until the transfer-window closes. Brace yourselves…
We might mark the beginning of the end at 3 March 2013. For those with addled brains, that’s the North London Derby that Tottenham found a way to win. The scene: Nacho Monreal had just joined the squad a month before. We were committed to playing a high defensive line—even though Tottenham featured Bale and Lennon, two fleet and occasionally dangerous wingers. Vermaelen, our captain, was twice culpable as Tottenham exploited that high line to score on their way to a 2-1 win. It was a nadir but not the death-spiral that a certain manager consigned to the Russian hinterlands dubbed it. It was also the match that may have marked the end of Vermaelen’s time in London as well.
From that point forward, Vermaelen would play sparingly, relegated to the bench by the emergence of the Kos-Per axis (and the Arteta-Ramsey one as well) as we developed a firm defensive foundation for the first time since perhaps the Graham years. Vermaelen was never truly a defender; his forward-thinking instincts always dominated, resulting in the delivery of some famous goals but exposing him and the squad to disastrous concessions to boot. Most famous, of course might have been the “assist” at Old Trafford when Vermaelen squibbed a clearance that van Persie, himself freshly away from Arsenal, blasted home. That, of course, was back in 2012, but it looks, in retrospect, to be an omen rather than an aberration.
Throughout the entire 2013-14 season, he’s become little more than an afterthought, an “oh yeah, whatever happened to Tommy Vermaelen?” His cameos here and there only serve to highlight his relegation. Through the ordeal, though, he has endured it with nothing but class and dignity. A lesser man would have found ways to leak his dissatisfaction to the press or been photographed smirking or sulking during a match. Vermaelen has been loyal, perhaps to a fault, as he’s watched his chance at first-team football fade, first with Arsenal and then again with Belgium in the World Cup. At 28, this may have been his last best chance at representing his country. He missed it with nary a mutter.
If this rumored move to Barça proves true, Vermaelen will likely pair with Piqué while winning a few pieces of silverware along the way. I don’t mind that in the least. It’s far-better, of course, than seeing him help Man U climb back towards relevance.
All in all, this deal looks like it would be a win-win. The player gets a chance at first-team action and silverware; the club clears roster-space and sheds a non-homegrown player. That’s a nice bit of business with no hard feelings to be found. If I may say so, it may even start to look like Barça’s players are looking to Arsenal as a promotion while Gunners are looking to Barça as an opportunity for first-team action. We live in interesting times…
First, a few particulars. He’s played in the Prem since 2012, making 34 appearances in that time. He’s massive, standing 1.87m (6’2″). As you might imagine, he’s strong in the air, but he doesn’t seem to trade height for pace, offering speed and agility to the mix. He made just 11 starts this past season due to injury-woes (mostly to his knee). If there’s a worry there, it’s that he last played for club or country way back in early February. He was apparently suffering some pain in his knee which doctors struggled to diagnose. This might raise some red flags (or inspire some Gooners to quip that he’s already got that Arsenal DNA. However, if this injury and the arrival of Mangala have made him surplus to Citeh’s requirements, this might make him available at more of a cut-rate price (again, Gooners, prepare your quips).
One other particular to consider: he should not count against the homegrown rule, and the Prem site lists him in Citeh’s U21 squad. his is a factor to contemplate, especially as our current squad already has 16 non-homegrown players, one less than the maximum seventeen that UEFA permits. We are close then to having to loan out or sell a non-homegrown player before acquiring another one, or risk being unable to register one of those for Champions League play. We need a minimum of eight home-grown players on our roster (not on the pitch), and so we do, at some level, have to be mindful of that factor. Here’s a quick run-down of our players who are not home-grown:
- Ospina, Mertesacker, Kos, Vermaelen, Monreal, Debuchy; Flamini, Diaby, Rosický, Arteta, Özil, Cazorla; Miyaichi, Podolski, Giroud, Alexis, Campbell.
We know that we need more cover at centre-back. Chambers needs time and experience. Vermaelen is all but gone. As unlikely as it may feel to us to sign the likes of Nastasić, he’s young, he’s apparently available, he’s familiar with the Prem, and it’s difficult to think of another centre-back who can offer that same combination of qualities. So Citeh might inflate their asking-price. At a time when other clubs are “overpaying” for young players, is £15m for Nastasić “overpaying”?
I know that the idea of reading another round of headlines bleating “Arsenal lose ANOTHER captain to Man U” could be painful, but this is hardly the same ball of wax. It’s been clear for some time that Vermaelen can’t crack our starting line-up, not as a centre-back, not as a right- or left-back, and not, as is so often suggested, as a defensive-midfielder. So he might as well be on his way to a club that needs his services but perhaps has lower amibitions. Man U appears to fit that bill quite nicely. However, if we are to sell to a league-rival, we should extract as much out of them as we can. Vermaelen’s market-value hovers somewhere in the £12m range. If Man U want him, they can have him—for £25m. If they stick to £12m, we insist on getting Kagawa as make-weight.
After all, Man U’s need for an experienced, familiar-with-the-Prem centre-back, coupled with Van Gaal’s system, make Vermaelen the perfect centre-back for their needs. All the more reason to sell the man on—to Barcelona or Napoli. I don’t mind losing Vermaelen. He had his moments, both good and bad, but we’re not content to finish fourth (not that we ever were). We have serious designs on winning the Prem, and I can’t quite convince myself that he’s the captain or the centre-back we need to get us there. He’s taking his lumps about as well as anyone can, and out of respect to his loyalty, if not his quality, we should send him somewhere where he can actually play. All the best to you, Tommy.