Thomas Vermaelen’s technical prowess and reading of the game will help Arsenal both at the back and in building up attacks.
Arsenal’s defensive perils have always seemed slightly exaggerated, if a tiny bit superficial. Yes, it would help if the defenders were taller but the height issue always seems to rear it’s head as a talking point whenever Arsenal didn’t perform as well as an attacking unit.
As a reader keenly pointed out, teams must defend as a team but the same is also true when attacking. Arsenal are a possession based team and their ability to keep the ball is both a form of defense and as a means of sustaining the pressure at the other end. The deployment of the high line enables the ball to be circulated continuously to build up pressure. The permeations of this however is that it means the centre backs must be adept at passing the ball and reading the game, while being highly mobile so as to keep the game flowing and be ready for a swift counter attack.
In the past two seasons Arsenal have had three notable headers of the ball; Sol Campbell, Phillipe Senderos and Pascal Cygan (the less we talk about the latter the better). The former two on the whole produced good partnerships with whomever they lined up with as they were the ones who attacked the ball if play broke down while the other stayed back. They also passed the ball well, read the game comfortably and by attacking the ball almost made up for their slight lack of pace. And with the signing of Thomas Vermaelen, Arsene Wenger will be hoping he has found the right balance this time.
Arsenal have been following the Belgian since the age of 16 along with Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and the move has baffled a few, mainly due to his height or rather lack of. But at 6ft, FIFA reckon it’s the ideal height for the modern top player. The governing body’s research suggests such players make up the height because of their powerful leap, an area where Vermaelen excels at. Around 30% of goals are scored from set pieces (half of that penalties) and 70% from open play (40% are scored from quick breaks). Last season in all competitions, Arsenal conceded 7 headed goals, 9 goals altogether from set pieces (not counting penalties). 16 goals were scored from quick breaks and having admitted goals conceded was the Gunners main downfall, Wenger will hope Vermaelen will help contribute to a lower goals against tally next campaign.
Indeed Vermaelen’s rainbow of skills should put him at a good advantage but it would be foolish to think the Belgian will get to the speed of the English game straight away. While he has great underlying potential, praised by Ronaldo De Boer no least, Ajax fans feel they have not seen the best of him.
An underwhelming season as skipper for Van Basten’s side saw Ajax finish third and the manager sacked. A 4-1 defeat to Vitesse raised a few questions among the Dutch press about Vermaelen’s suitability to Arsenal; he seems comfortable challenging on the ground and in the air when close to his marker but was exploited on the break on more than a couple of occasions in the fixture, going against one of the chief reasons why he was signed. Vermaelen will no doubt point out the weak cover in front of him but having been watched for a long time, it seems rather the lack of quality around him than the actual player himself which was the main cause. The overwhelming feeling however is that Arsenal have a potential diamond in the rough here, and there is no better person than Arsene Wenger to polish off the edges.
Characteristics 0f Elite Players (FIFA)
|• Height: 181cm
• Weight: 74kg
• VO2Max: 60 to 65ml
• Sprint 10m: 1’’78
• Sprint 20m: 2’’89
• Sprint 60m: 7’’43
• Jumping height: 63cm
|• Great speed of movement and
• Technical skills
• Muscular power
• Ability to recover quickly
• Ability to repeatedly produce short
and intensive efforts
• Tactical understanding
• Mental strength and self control