Manager Arsene Wenger was uncharacteristically open this week when asked whether Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen would be playing for the Gunners next season.
"I cannot guarantee he will stay, but should he go I would bring another centre-back in for sure," Wenger stated with regards the skipper.
Ordinarily the French coach is infamous for his reluctance to comment on individuals and transfer speculation but this comment reveals a lot about reported Manchester United target Vermaelen.
According to recent reports, Vermaelen had been the subject of a £6 million offer from United with Arsenal hopeful of holding out for a bid closer to their £10-£12 million valuation of the skipper who has been a peripheral figure at the Emirates over the last 18 months.
What comes to light most of all, however, in Wenger’s admission over the 28-year-old centre back is that he is insistent on brining in a replacement for the Belgian who has spent five years at the Emirates.
If Manchester United are determined to pursue their interest in the defender, they may have to wait until Arsenal acquire a replacement but, as yet, it remains unknown whether the North Londoners are actively pursuing a particular target.
The Red Devils are currently away on their pre-season tour of the USA with new manager Louis van Gaal but are minus club veterans Rio Ferdinand and former captain Nemanja Vidic who both left Old Trafford on free transfers this month, leaving Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling remaining as their only senior options in the heart of their defence.
Wenger’s openness to discuss Vermaelen’s situation is unusual and, as such, suggests it’s more than likely the skipper will leave this summer, especially given that his contract has now entered its final 12 months.
Another crucial delaying factor in this deal is that Arsenal will play Champions League qualifiers in mid and late August, which Manchester United will not.
With Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny both having played 52 games and 46 games for Arsenal, respectively, last season and then featured in the World Cup with Germany and France, respectively, compounded by Bacary Sagna’s exit, it would wholly unwise for the Gunners’ boss to allow their only other senior option at centre-back to depart before bringing in a replacement/
As such, it would be highly surprising to see this deal being done before the end of August at the earliest and, of course, deadline day at the very latest.