When Thomas Vermaelen joined Arsenal in the summer, nobody expected him to make this sort of impact. It’s not that people didn’t rate the centre back, merely that he is just that – a centre back. The Belgian was signed to add stability to a shaky defence and yet eight games into his Arsenal career, all the talk is about his prowess in the opposition box and what he can do for Arsenals betting odds.
Vermaelen’s brace on Saturday takes his goal tally to four, making him the top scorer in a team full of attacking quality. His performances have drawn praise from all and sundry, with Arsene Wenger claiming that even he did not expect the 23 year old to adapt to the Premier League game so quickly. Unfortunately, question marks remains over the defence as a whole and it may be that goals at the other end are papering over cracks at the back.
The Gunners attacking performances have reaped 17 goals and plenty of praise from the critics and yet they find themselves in seventh position, having lost two out of five games. The most frustrating aspect for Wenger will be that both defeats were very avoidable.
The first came at Old Trafford, when Manchester United were outclassed but came away with all three points after two awful mistakes. The second was at the City Of Manchester stadium when the concession of four goals left the attack with too much to do.
What both games have highlighted is a need for improvement at the back, particularly when the pressure is on. Three goals were conceded in the space of just 10 minutes against Manchester City, as the defence (Vermaelen included) appeared to lose their grasp on the game and just four days later there was another worrying collapse as Standard Liege scored twice inside the opening five minutes.
Fortunately on that occasion Arsenal were able to bounce back, with their new centre back again amongst the goalscorers. The problem is that against the very best opposition, that sort of comeback is rarely possible. With this in mind it seems likely that Wenger will be looking for a marked improvement in his defence over the coming weeks. While goals from Vermaelen and co will always help the side, it may just be performances at the back that define the Gunners quest for honours this season.
By Josh Allen
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