Meetings and greetings and some more news on Vermaelen

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By Walter Broeckx

Coming to London is always a pleasure. It is like a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to the Emirates. So last weekend it was once again very nice to come over or under as we go under water to reach London. The one thing that wouldn’t work along was the ref and his decisions. But I have talked about that enough so I will not mention him again. Well I will try.

The morning started very nice. All 16 of us who would travel with the Eurostar came on time and we could hand out the match tickets and the train tickets. All on board and off we went. So only another 6 tickets to hand over to Gooners already in London. But we had made arrangements to meet somewhere.

When I was in the bar carriage to buy something (and no it was not something to drink but my oyster cards as I had forgotten them at home) another Benelux member came along with a picture.  A picture of himself and the parents of Thomas Vermaelen.  As we were sitting in different carriages  I didn’t know in which carriage they were sitting. But I was thinking of keeping my eyes wide open to see if I would see them when we were in London.

And when we all came out of our seats when the Eurostar stopped in London I saw the parents standing further down the train in our own carriage. If only I would have known that. So I waited for them to pass us by and asked them if they had the time to spend a few moments with them while going to the exit of the Eurostar platform.

And as you can imagine the question we all have was asked: How is Thomas doing for the moment? How long will he still be out? And the answer is that his Achilles injury is what you could call healed. But as a result of him having such a long time out he has now all sorts of other smaller problems which keeps him back.  One could say from rest comes rust.

A date when he will return is impossible to give. But Thomas himself is determined to come back. And he also has said that he will only come back when he feels 200% fit. He didn’t think it is good to rush back and play half an hour and then walk off with another injury like a muscular injury. No, when he comes back he wants to be back and stay fit.

So patience is a good virtue at times and I think for Thomas this is such a time. How I would love to see him back playing in defence and scoring a few goals but I think he learnt the lesson which lead to his long lay off this time. By playing for Belgium when not completely fit the damage was done. So I think he will be more careful from now one when it comes to playing with an injury.

So how I would have liked it to tell you: he will be back on …… I cannot give this information. No one can actually. But if all goes well they hoped he should be ready somewhere this month. So if I would make a prediction based on what the parents of Vermaelen said the hope is that he will be back after the international break. Now wouldn’t that be a nice date to come back. And if he comes back like he came on the scene last season we are in for a nice end of the season with Thomas defending like he can and…scoring like he did.

But then our ways separated. We went to the underground and well the parents of Vermaelen went to the car that was waiting for them.

But more people we had to meet. Like Tony and Jane. And it was as usual a nice meeting with lots of nice talking and laughing and a bit of drinking. You know how those things go. Some pictures were taken, some more talking and off we went to the Emirates after having found all the people of the Benelux already in London. Even a battery of my mobile phone that went down couldn’t stop us.

The ref could stop us. So the result was a bit disappointing (understatement)  and certainly when the text messages came in from several countries around the world that we had been  robbed a bit. It made it even harder to swallow. But as swallowing was the only thing we could do, we swallowed.

But the optimist came above water soon enough and after having seen one defeat (Newcastle) and one draw (Sunderland) next time I come back will be to see us win. And after Sunday’s results we know we still have it all in our own hands and feet. 10 games to play, 3 points behind the leader and one game in hand. I have known more desperate situations.

Let us just hope that the likes of Cesc, Van Persie, Walcott, Song and Vermaelen come back real soon and if only they could stay fit for those remaining games it could be an exciting final 10 games to look forward. But be prepared for 10 games against all the forces of darkness and evil. Don’t be surprised to see strange things happening on the field. Remember it is us against them….all of them. But in a way, this is just the way it has been for a while and it makes success even sweeter.

So once again a big thanks to all you Gooners for making the day worthwhile. Well live is a roller coaster and so is being an Arsenal supporter. Up and down we go but the ride is always exciting.


If you think things are up and down now, try the world in 1910, when Arsenal went bust and then arose from the ashes to form the modern club.  Making the Arsenal.  Details here.

16 Replies to “Meetings and greetings and some more news on Vermaelen”

  1. It’s us vs them, that’s for sure. In my opinion, it’ll be a historical achievement by the players and the boss if we can win something this season. It’s kind of like the 300 Spartans…..

  2. That was great Walter.
    I’m happy that Vermaelen’s original injury is healed and it’s those post injury injuries left. I just hope Thomas will be back soon since if it takes months (worst case) some “fans” might turn against him as they did for Tomas Rosicky.

  3. I feel happy to hear that vermaelen is back. I can’t wait to watch him play; he may turn out to be our messiah.

  4. I think it is showing that our squad is not strong enough. On paper it could match any in the premiership but together it does not work. When we loose one star player we seem like we drop down in terms of class and ability to play and score. We have weak replacement central defenders, struggle to create without Fabregas, can’t score goals when we dont have Van Persie. Also it seems that our best players are injury-prone. If you look at the replacements …Squillaci(30), Miguel(18), Diaby/Denilson, Bendtner, not bad but, not great… and currently we have one goalkeeper!(+Shea?)

    It is only a matter of time before we have a great crop of youngsters come through, I’m hoping it will be in a few years so Jack is old enough to marshal them into a group of fighters and to love the club they play for.

    Come on the Arsenal!

  5. @thevoiceofreason

    If we have weak replacement central defenders
    If we struggle to create without Fabregas
    If we can’t score goals without Van Persie
    If our best players are injury-prone

    If we have all these big problems how are we still currently the second best team in the country, 3 points behind with a game in hand?

    And that tells you “that our squad is not strong enough”?

    I don’t actually disagree with your observations, but strongly disagree with your conclusion. This squad has shown formidable strength and resilience to cope with the constant niggly injuries to Cesc and Van Persie and the season-long absence of Vermaelen.

  6. Anyone know the allegiances of Jim White, Telegraph journo?

    He seems to be taking pleasure in trying to stick the knife into Arsene Wenger right now.

    Oh done in quite a sophisticated manner. As you would expect in the Telegraph.

    But one wonders who he supports nonetheless……..

  7. Exactly ‘constant niggly injuries’ …so then these replacement players instantly become first-teamers for a few months. We haven’t done badly this season but united, chelsea and liverpool haven’t had great seasons either. I’m opposed to spending big and am fully behind Mr Wenger but surely there must be better / more solid players than squillaci out there? Bearing in mind his age, he doesn’t exactly lead by example! I also have a bad feeling about Mr Vermaelen’s Achilles, they seem to be a bugger to shake off long term, but I like any other am hoping for a solid return from him.

    We are due much luck and good ref displays, and along with our spirit I believe the title will be heading back to London with us, time to book the bus!

  8. Regarding Squillaci, I understand the frustration. Of course there are better defenders out there, but looking around at other top clubs I don’t think it’s realistic to demand someone much better as your fourth choice centre-back.

    Man Utd’s fourth choice CB is Johnny Evans… not what you’d call top class. Before Chelsea splurged £23m on David Luiz their fourth CB was…. erm…. they didn’t actually have one! It was a toss up between moving Paulo Ferreira into the centre or throwing in 19 year old rookie Jeffrey Bruma. They tried both options, neither worked out well.

    Even the mighty Barca have an issue there with Gabriel Milito fourth in the pecking order. Guardiola seems to have so little faith in him at the moment that he’s preferring to move Busquets back into defence than play Milito!

    Squillaci isn’t brilliant, but Arsenal fans aren’t the only ones with complaints about defensive cover.

  9. Fair point but at the beginning of the season Djourou was just coming back from injury and was labelled as injury prone, Vermaelen was fit and we had two new players brought in, one was Kosielny, the other Squallaci. Not that I thought that highly of his attitude but maybe Gallas leaving was a little premature?! Currently we have one defender with a long-term injury, one who is trying to beat off his ‘injury-prone’ tag, one who is Championship quality, one who is rumbling about leaaving, one trying to replace him, a rookie 18 year-old and… Kosielny and Sagna! And to add to that they have picked up 5 red cards this season, that’s quite a few missed matches through suspension!

    It has taken a 20-year old goalkeeper to organise our back line and ensure some stability to it, (it had looked pretty good recently). This speaks high volumes in terms of Szczesny because he seems to get the best out of our back line, he is the switch on our defense. I look forward to next season, if we don’t buy anyone and if we remain fit as a squad then we will blow the league apart. That is a BIG if…

  10. There were big changes made at CB but I think all of them were necessary, and we’ve come out of it tremendously well considering all the circumstances that Wenger’s had to deal with. It’s been a difficult transition but we now look strong in that position with three young CBs with massive potential, and Bartley and Miquel showing a lot of promise. Plus Squillaci as a capable stop-gap.

    Silvestre and Senderos had to go in the summer, their contracts were up and they weren’t going to be renewed. Sol was offered a contract but didn’t want to be a sub, nothing we can do about that. Nobody is guaranteed playing time. From what I’ve read Gallas was basically holding us to ransom – he wanted a two year contract AND a pay raise from what was apparently around £90k a week. He’s 33 and was getting injured more regularly, it was never going to happen. He probably thought Arsenal would give into his demands as it would be difficult to replace him, but we never do that. And spending that money on Koscielny instead has worked out very well for us I think.

    Nobody speaks about or seems to appreciate the difficult circumstances because it’s Arsenal, if it happened to Man Utd there would be plenty of excuses made.

    If Utd lost the experienced Brown and O’Shea (Sol and Silvestre), the bumbling Evans was let go (Senderos) and Ferdinand retired or moved for a big pay-day (Gallas) they would have a very difficult transition to make. Only Vidic and Smalling would be left (Vermaelen and Djourou). Then throw in a long-term injury to Vidic just after the transfer window shuts and they’d be left with Smalling and two newbies to choose from at centre-back.

    I wonder, would they challenge for the Premier League and fight on four fronts for as long as we did if put in that situation? Would they have the second best defensive record in the league like we have now?

  11. I actually watched the Rangers match last night and was immensely impressed by Kyle Bartley. He is huge, has good pace, but just seems to be a natural defender. He booted it into touch when needed, won everything in the air, almost scored from a corner, and best of all seemed to be a real communicator in central defense. He was alongside David Weir, who is massively experienced, and there were many occasions when Bartley was telling Weir where to be. He seems to have the total trust of his team mates. As you’d expect, he is also very comfortable in possession. He doesnt turn 20 until the summer. I expect he will come straight in and challenge not just for a squad place, but for a 1st team place straight away (like Wilshire after his loan spell).

    Like Wrenny, I also dont think our defense has been too bad this season, especially since Djourou settled into the side. Since the end of November we actually have the best defensive record in the League (even with our 4 goal collapse at Newcastle). Squillaci, as has been mentioned by others, has been a bit of a dissapointment, but we cannot forget how highly regarded he was when he arrived by many in Europe. He was seen as an outstanding buy, with tons of top club and international experience. He and Koscielny both have taken time to adjust to English Football, and it is no surprise that all the times we have conceded more than 2 goals in a game have come with those two together in defense. Nobody expected that Vermaelen would miss this much football, but our defense has actually held up pretty well without him.

    Next season we will have Vermaelen, Djourou, Koscielny, Squillaci and Bartley (I imagine Miquel might go out on loan to get experience), which looks a pretty deep and experienced lineup. Nobody will be new to English Football and everyone (except Bartley) will have played with everyone else at one point or another. With Chesney and Fabianski as 1 & 2 keepers, and with our full-back depth, I dont see any newcomers on the defensive front this summer. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we will have as good depth defensively as anyone, and may be on the verge of having the best defense in the League again.

  12. I’ve been very impressed with Bartley too. I didn’t watch him last night but saw him against Sporting and we was excellent. He’s always been a very strong natural defender and a leader, but his ability on the ball was questioned. Maybe he’s worked on that, or it was just an exaggeration, because he looks very good on the ball when I’ve seen him. The Rangers players seem to favour giving Bartley the ball ahead of either Weir or Bougherra, and he made a couple of great long diagonal passes in the Sporting game. I’ve actually found a highlights reel of that performance:

    Our defence has, in terms of league goals conceded, actually been better this season than last. We’re currently on 27 goals in 28 matches, last season it was 41 goals from 38. And we’re on a great run – 7 clean sheets in our last 9 league games.

    Arsenal seem to be scouting a few young right-backs, I think that’s the only defensive buy we could make in the summer. It makes sense, we don’t have a big talent in that position like we do in almost every other area. Gregory Van Der Wiel and Sime Vrsaljko are two that Arsenal scouts are said to be watching quite regularly.

  13. I didn’t see any discomfort in possession at all. Perhaps it was just in comparison with the likes of Wilshire. I think he is certainly future captaincy material. With Eboue having signed a new contract I think we are set at RB as well.

    To me it is up front that we need something more. Although I like the kid, I wonder if Bentdner is ever going to be the answer. I would like to see us find another striker or goalscoring attacker this summer.

  14. @Paul C and Wrenny

    Regarding Kyle Bartley. I have been very impressed whenever I’ve seen him, which is admittedly not too often. I agree. He will be fighting for his place in the squad next year. Even when he was at Sheffield, by all accounts he was the leader of their defense, so it’s interesting you mentioned him being captain material. We’ll have to wait and see, but the signs look good.

  15. The defense is starting to come together but there is some media noise about Clichy. I don’t believe the transfer stories I read of course, but I just have a feeling it might be true. But I think we will get Pedro Boetelho in to the squad next year. Good tall left back (or left winger), playing in the Spanish segunda.

    I agree right back might be where we strengthen. Probably a young RB. I don’t think Eboue is good enough to fill in long term if Sagna gets injured. And I don’t think there’s any RB coming through our ranks either.

  16. Arsenals situation reminds me of the German situation at the end of the first world war-i.e the closest they had ever been to their objective of Paris-but they had exhausted themselves in the effort to get there.
    We currently have half a team of wounded or walking wounded-the best half. I hope we win something too this season- but thats what it is -hope. It is not a judgement based on our recent performances or the fitness of our players. I think it is unreasonable to expect us not to drop points between now and the end of the season- and to get angry when we do. We have a dilemma against United- if we play the weakened team we should- we will lose the game- probably heavily-and that will affect our confidence. If we play our best players they are likely to be injured by Uniteds kickers. I think we have to forfeit this game-and focus on one objective the league. Who the hell wants to win the cup and fail to get into the top four?

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