Arsene Wenger shrouded the future of Manchester United target Thomas Vermaelen into further doubt in a press conference following his side’s 2-0 friendly win over Borehamwood.
“I cannot guarantee he will stay,” said the veteran Frenchman, “but should he go I would bring in another centre-back for sure.”
His Arsenal side can be backed at a shrinking 6/1 to win a fourth Premier League title this season, but selling the Belgium man will prove detrimental to their chances.
Here’s why the north Londoners should hang on to the former Ajax stopper:
He offers a consistent foil to occasionally erroneous pair Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
Wenger’s first-choice defensive duo restricted Vermaelen to just 16 league and Champions League appearances last season, but the reliable 28-year-old is the perfect reserve.
Mertesacker is criminally slow, while Koscielny is prone to haphazard.
Steady-away Tommy V has the pace to compensate for the German’s lack of it and his sure-footedness is what’s required to bail out his French counterpart.
He’s amassed ample Premier League experience.
Given that Wenger’s preferred pair managed to dodge the sick bay for long periods last term, extended stints on the sidelines could be in the offing for either.
Should that happen, they’d surely be better off with a seasoned top-flight performer of Vermaelen’s ilk than they would a budget import from foreign shores.
Gooners will recall previous ancillary centre-halves their dugout incumbent has hired – Sebastien Squillaci, Pascal Cygan, Igors Stepanovs – and shudder.
His versatility is a desirable tool.
Able to operate efficiently at left-back, as well as in his preferred centre-half berth owing to a technical aptitude that belies his defensive acumen, the Belgian can provide additional cover for injury-prone left-sided pair Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs.
His sale would be strengthening a title rival.
The reported £10m that Vermaelen would cost Man Utd is a fee they can easily afford and drafting in a replacement would eat up the majority of that figure.
Obviously, the Red Devils regard him as a leading centre-back and allowing United to bolster their backline for no great outlay is surely going to hinder Arsenal’s bid to finish above them next term, not help it.