The Hammers' defensive woes were compounded by a staggering 9-0 aggregate defeat to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup semi-final, and despite the signing of Wolverhampton Wanderers centre back Roger Johnson, manager Sam Allardyce is still looking to strengthen a defence that has shipped 33 goals in the Premier League this season.
And their pursuit for defensive reinforcements has brought them to two audacious bids – both loan deals – for Manchester City's England international Joleon Lescott and the aforementioned Vermaelen. Both players are out-of-favour at their clubs, and will want to get first-team football ahead of the World Cup. Lescott has been out of the England picture for some time now, whilst Vermaelen should still make the Belgium squad, despite playing second fiddle to Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
But with Arsenal attempting to win the Premier League title this season, should Arsene Wenger allow a valuable squad player to leave the club? With Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel out on loan at Hamburg and Leicester City respectively, Vermaelen is the only cover Wenger has at his disposal, and his presence in the squad would he crucial in case either Koscielny or Mertesacker suffered an injury from now until the end of the season.
Having rejected a bid from Napoli for the former Ajax man, it seems Wenger is intent on keeping the 28-year-old in North London for the foreseeable future, which is a wise move on his part. Whilst Vermaelen is craving regular first-team football in a bid to secure his place alongside Vincent Kompany in the heart of Belgium's defence at this summer's World Cup, Wenger will almost certainly struggle to bring a replacement to the same standard as Vermaelen in the January transfer window.
Arsenal need Vermaelen to be a willing squad player for now, and whilst he may be allowed to leave the club at the end of the season if his first-team prospects haven't improved, it would be foolish to let the Belgian leave at this point in the season with no replacement currently in the squad or even lined up – leaving West Ham to contemplate alternatives at centre back, which could include City defender Lescott, who has been told he can leave the Etihad Stadium if Manuel Pellegrini can find an adequate replacement.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald