The three games that will shape Thomas Vermaelen's season

Arsenal skipper Thomas Vermaelen has targeted the League Cup tie against West Brom on September 25 as his return date.

The Belgian defender has been missing this season due to a troublesome back injury but the good news for Arsene Wenger and Gunners fans is that he’s closing in on a return to action.

However, Vermaelen has been cast aside in recent times due to the good form of the Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny partnership, which kept him out of the side for much of last season.

Considering the Gunners had the second best defensive record in the country last season, the Belgian will face a real fight to regain his place upon return from injury.

Arsenal have been solid as the Premier League has returned with two wins from three games but they have conceded four games, three of which came at home against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.

So there is a glimmer of hope for Vermaelen as closes in on a return to competitive action with his club but the next three matches Arsenal are due to play could play a large part in shaping the rest of his season.

“The West Brom game is a few weeks away yet and hopefully I will be closer to a return myself in the meantime. West Brom looks like an interesting draw – it looks like a tough game but a nice game too,” Arsenal’s captain told reporters.

Arsenal have two very difficult away games coming up, one against Sunderland in the Premier League and the other away to Marseille as they begin their Champions League campaign.

Following that they will be tested by the brutal nature of Stoke City’s football before the West Brom tie, so the back four is going to be stretched and really tested over the next 270 minutes of football the Gunners have lined up.

If the Mertesacker and Koscielny partnership makes it through those three matches without conceding a goal and generally looking rock solid in defence then it’s going to be especially difficult for Vermaelen to get back into the side.

However, if Arsenal are inconsistent through those games and defensive problems are exposed to be discussed in detail during an episode of Monday Night Football, it makes it a much easier decision for Wenger to look at getting Vermaelen back into the side as quickly as possible.

If he’s available he is likely to start the League Cup tie against West Brom but that’s only as a result of Wenger needing to give his current centre back pairing a rest, rather than him seeing Vermaelen as a better alternative to either of them.

There was a lot of talk earlier this summer over Vermaelen’s future at Arsenal and whether he could be sold if he’s forced to play second fiddle when he feels that he should be key in the heart of Arsenal’s back four.

It’s very dangerous for a manager to chop and change his defensive partnerships because it prevents the chance of consistent clean sheets and that makes it hard for a pair of players to establish a partnership and working relationship. Vermaelen has it all to do.

Do you think Vermaelen will go straight back into the centre of Arsenal’s defence?

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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