After their nation’s facile qualification for the tournament next year the World Cup will be on every Belgian player’s mind and out-of-favour Arsenal centre-half Thomas Vermaelen is no different, with the oft-overlooked club captain contemplating a move in search of first team football.
The Gunners – 1/4 to beat Norwich on Saturday – are understood to be willing to spend big in January and with Barcelona interested in their man they might want to think about offsetting a winter window spree by cashing in.
All 11 of Arsenal’s losses last season were sustained in matches started by the Belgian.
It may be a bit unfair to lay the blame for Arsenal’s failure to conquer the world last term at Vermaelen’s feet, but his teammates managed to avoid defeat in all 18 matches they played without him during 2012/13.
The 14 of those fixtures that were Premier League or Champions League outings saw his colleagues secure no fewer than nine clean sheets in his absence, with no more than one goal shipped in the remainder.
Arsene Wenger has only seen fit to start him in the Capital One Cup this season.
A string of poor performances last term led the Emirates gaffer to drop the former Ajax centre-half for the Champions League second round trip to Bayern Munich last term.
A suspension for Laurent Koscielny brought about his only Premier League or Champions League start since then as Per Mertesacker and the Frenchman have gone about establishing themselves as the Arsenal’s first-choice centre-half duo.
January would be the ideal time to generate a big fee to reinvest in young defensive talent.
The mid-winter window is notorious for exorbitant splash-outs, as Chris Samba’s move to QPR last term showed and if the Gunners are to cash in on the reputation Vermaelen forged before his injury-blighted 2010/11 campaign then there would be no better time to do it.
Any money could be reinvested in one of a host of talented young centre-halves that Arsenal have been courting including Red Bull Salzburg’s Martin Hinteregger or Basle’s Champions League-proven Fabian Schar.
With Bacary Sagna having proven himself a more than able auxiliary even if Vermaelen is not replaced it may well be worth taking the chance to move on a player who is clearly a highly reluctant pick for his manager at present.