Was Vermaelen even capable of replacing Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford?

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has denied rumours he is set to join Manchester United this summer, but was he up to the task of replacing Nemanja Vidic anyway?

Reports earlier this week claimed Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen had agreed a deal in principle to join Manchester United this summer.

The Belgian has just one year remaining on his current contract, and having found himself forced out of Arsene Wenger’s first-choice team by Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, he is looking for a fresh start away from the Emirates stadium.

When you consider the defensive difficulties United have faced over the last 12 months, coupled with the double departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, a move for the Arsenal captain would certainly have seemed a positive move.

He has come out today and stated there is no truth behind the rumours, and does not expect to be joining United.

But was he up to the challenge in any case? We have taken a look at a few statistics...

Vermaelen 2013/14 Statistics

  TeamPosDuel Succ (%)Intercept / appsTotal Clear /appsBlock /appsTackle Succ (%)Aerial Succ (%)Pass Succ (%)Touches / appsAppsMins
Thomas Vermaelen Arsenal DF 66.27 1.36 5.57 0.14 71.43 62.26 90.78 36.79 14 782

Although his chances were particularly limited last season, the Belgian has shown what he is capable of when thrown in as cover. The general consensus is that Vermaelen is a top drawer defender, he just hasn’t been afforded the chance to show this throughout the past campaign.

Considering his lack of playing time, we will instead compare his 2012/13 season statistics to those of Vidic last season.

Vermaelen 2012/13 Statistics

  TeamPosDuel Succ (%)Intercept / appsClear /appsBlock /appsTackle Succ (%)Aerial Succ (%)Pass Succ (%)Touches / appsAppsMins
Thomas Vermaelen Arsenal DF 61.50 1.62 4.52 0.66 81.40 55.37 86.29 51.79 29 2,237

Vidic 2013/14 Statistics

  TeamPosDuel Succ (%)Intercept / appsClearance / appsBlock /appsTackle Succ (%)Aerial Succ (%)Pass Succ (%)Touches / appsAppsMins
Nemanja Vidic Man Utd DF 65.32 1.88 10.56 0.48 75.86 70.86 85.51 59.08 25 2,082

As is obvious from the statistics above, Vermaelen, five years Vidic's junior, has proven the inferior of the two players, especially when it comes down to the number of interceptions, clearances and touches per match. The Serbian is also the more effective in the air; a trait United will miss dearly if he is not properly replaced. 

Aerially, although less prolific than Vidic, Vermaelen is up there with the best in the league, and he commands a real presence among the rest of his defensive teammates. 

There is also an element of bravery to his game which few players can match. Vidic is a player who boasts this trait and the physical style of defending Vermaelen brings to the table is something which will benefit United following the Serbian's departure. 

The Belgian reigns triumphant in the tackle and in terms of his passing ability. The Belgian won 5% more of his challenges throughout the 2012/13 season, compared to Vidic last term. He also completed a greater percentage of his attempts to find a teammate. 

Ultimately, he would have been a fantastic replacement for Vidic, and he would be a great start for Louis Van Gaal in his attempt to put his own stamp on the current Manchester United squad.

At 28-years-old, and with just one year left on his contract, the current Arsenal captain shouldn’t demand a fee higher than £12 million. Perhaps there is more left in this one despite his denials. For now though it appears we shouldn't expect a transfer just yet.

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