The 28-year-old Belgian was dropped by the boss for the Gunners trip to the Allianz Arena where they won 2-0 against Bayern Munich on the night but fell short exiting the Champions League to the eventual champions of Europe.
The partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has been cultivated since then – so much so that the skipper rarely gets an outing for the club at centre-back. He has made just one Premier League start all season so far (and Arsenal lost that game to Manchester United at Old Trafford).
However, he has been a true professional – there have been no histrionics or calls for more playing time, despite rumours he is looking for a way out of North London this summer. He returned from injury last weekend and put on a solid display in the Gunners’ 4-1 win over Everton to progress through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Meanwhile, Wenger has ruled out left fullback Kieran Gibbs who is injured for Arsenal’s clash with the Bundesliga champions – should the manager pick the skipper at left back where he has played for both the Belgian national team and previous club Ajax, or does the boss pick Nacho Monreal?
The 28-year-old Spaniard has been a consistent and worthy backup to Gibbs this term, making 18 appearances in the Premier League and six in the Champions League – the French coach has even opted to play both left-backs in tandem on the left flank and that could also be something he may consider given the attacking might of the Bavarians.
I suspect the boss will start Monreal if he is fit and fully recovered from his foot injury. He he came on for Gibbs in the first leg and despite having Arjen Robben targeting him throughout the second half he knows what to expect. With only Mesut Ozil to protect him and his ten-man side, he performed to the best of his ability and avoided individual errors which, it must be noted, has been something Vermaelen has had a tendency to commit.
Arsenal are not short of leaders in their current starting XI – the likes of Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are more than capable of marshalling the defence and midfield and the Gunners have enough armoury to worry the Germans going forward.
It’s almost like history repeating the tie from last term with Szczesny who was also dropped for the win at the Allianz last March also being suspended for the clash on Tuesday. I think the manager might stick to his guns and play Monreal ahead of the captain if at all possible.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald