The ‘Verminator’ is what they are calling Thomas Vermaelen at Arsenal. The nickname seems to have come about as a way of putting an emphasis on his style of defending- aggression mixed with a steely look. Vermaelen’s central defensive partnership with William Gallas has been a pairing that Arsene Wenger must be delighted with. Vermaelen’s debut season with the Gunners has seen the Arsenal fans take to him.
Vermaelen had been brought as a replacement for Kolo Toure, but even though he has proven to be the ideal replacement, questions were being raised about his height, certainly compared to other defenders in England, and whether he could deal with the demands of being a Premier League centre-back. Wenger was quick to stress that this was not an issue. He explained: “You can question his height, but not his leap. That makes up for it. He is taller than you expect him to be.
He’s not small. He has a very strong upper body and has a very good leap. His leap is very sharp and that’s important. If two players go for a ball the one who jumps first will win it.”
He has showed any doubters that defending is an art that involves a more all-round package as he has demonstrated. His tackling ability, aerial strength (even for one who is not the tallest defender), positioning and distribution are among his main assets. The latter point about his distribution has been highlighted by his ability to bring the ball out of defence and look calm. An added bonus has been Vermaelen’s goal scoring- he has contributed to the team with eight goals this season.
Perhaps a reason why Vermaelen is shining in the technical part of the game is to do with his years with the famous Ajax academy. Even though it is commendable the amount of goals he has scored, along with the fact that he looks so comfortable with the ball, Vermaelen has met the physical demands and rigours of English football with flying colours; after all the physical side of a central defender’s game should be his primary job.
Whether it is in Premiership or Champions League football, Arsenal have had defensive troubles this season and are suspect to conceding very soft goals, especially with teams who have the ability to counter-attack against them. However, Vermaelen’s presence seems to have also brought the best out of William Gallas.
Their partnership mirrors how crucial Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are to Manchester United’s defence. When it comes to Vidic and Vermaelen then the latter’s impact has been more immediate than Vidic’s. Settling in at Arsenal seemed to be second nature to the player and, considering that defending in the Premiership is more demanding than in some other leagues, this is testament to Vermaelen’s character.
Vermaelen seems to have changed the opinions of what type of defender it was that Arsenal needed. Prior to his signing it seemed that Arsenal needed to buy a big, physical defender but once again Arsene Wenger has shown he has the powerful knowledge and skill of spotting a good player. Vermaelen may have been largely unheard of and Wenger knew he was a realistic target so he quickly got in before the other big clubs acted.
Now that Vermaelen has almost completed his first season at Arsenal it is clear to see he is one of those players who genuinely enjoy defending. Questions about his height and ability to deal with the physical side of the game have been answered with his effective displays, and the ‘Verminator’ continues to go from strength to strength.
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