This is the second part of the Thomas Vermaelen interview which was arranged by Walter Broeckx of the Official Arsenal Benelux supporters club, and a great friend of Untold Arsenal.
If you missed the first part it is here.
WB: Did you ever think of leaving Ajax after you were named captain?
TV: When I was with Ajax and being captain I never thought of going to another team at that moment in time. It just felt good to be there.
WB: Were there other teams that were interested in you and tracked you, as far as you know?
TV: Well it seemed that there were other teams interested in me as well. But I never really took notice of that.
WB: When did you first hear that Arsenal was interested?
TV: I only heard about that after I had played my last game in the Dutch league against Twente. Before that I never had heard of Arsenal being interested in me.
WB: What went through your mind when you heard that Arsenal wanted you? Disbelief? Pride? Or did it leaves you cold?
TV: I really was very pleased with their interest in me. Just imagine.. Arsenal one of the biggest club in the World wanting me to play fort hem. I must admit I was very, very happy with that.
(WB: we did want to ask a lot of questions about the transfer talks and how those negotiations took place. But Arsenal has told us that they would not allow these details to be published or talked about with third party’s. We regret this of course but we can understand the reasons behind this decision and we can only respect that decision especially when you take in account the fact that Arsenal always have stayed silent on any issues in regards with transfer talks. Who am I to break those rules?)
WB: Tell us about “the call from Wenger” when you were on holiday?
TV: In fact it was rather a short phone call. I was on holiday with my girlfriend and when my cell phone rang we could not recognise the number at first. My girlfriend told me to pick it up anyway and then it was Arsène Wenger on the phone and he just told me that he really wanted me to join Arsenal. And so I joined.
WB: What were your expectations when you came to Arsenal? First try to get in the team and then on to the starters 11? Or were you sure that you would be immediately in the starting line up?
TV: I just went to Arsenal wit no special hopes or expectations. I just took it as it came and I felt I would just see what would happen with me.
WB: How was your first day at Arsenal? Were you presented to the other players and the rest of the technical staff?
TV: The first day was rather quiet I must say. I had to do a lot of tests on that day. And I had to present myself to the rest of the players.
WB: How was Arsène Wenger in the beginning?
TV: He seemed a quiet and friendly man.
WB: Are there any rituals that you must pass? How was the reception with the other players?
TV: That wasn’t too bad you know. I had to sing a song and give a short speech but nothing more than that.
WB: Who was the player who helped you most in those first days? I mean, the ball is round everywhere but I suspect that the habits and rules are somewhat different from club to club?
TV: In fact everybody was very friendly with me and they all helped me a lot. So it was very nice from the start.
WB: A question that many Arsenal fans ask, of course, is about Wenger. How is he in daily life at Arsenal?
TV: I can summarize that in 2 words: calm and sensible.
WB: Does he stand far above the players? Is he a manager who looks from afar, and can he barely be reached? Or is he involved in every training session on the field and effectively engaged with advice, tips etc?
TV: He is very much among the players. He is always present and busy with the players. He is not a manager that is looking from a distance but he is involved in what we do.
WB: And again about Wenger: is he a talker with the players? I mean, does he also have separate talks with the players on what you’ve done right or what you’ve done wrong ?
TV: Yes, Wenger is a manager that does talk a lot with the players, individually and collectively he is always talking with the players.
WB: What does a ‘working day’ at Arsenal look like? What time do you go to London Colney and what time you go back home?. How many training sessions are there per day?
TV: When we have a busy schedule we only train once a day. And that means that we can be home around 4 pm. But we are there from in the morning and stay there till everyone is finished.
WB: How is a match day when you play at home? Where and when you come together? Is it true that you are not allowed to drive your own car on the day of the game when you come to the stadium?
TV: We cannot drive on match days as we come together one day before a game in a hotel. From the hotel we go to The Emirates with the club coach.
WB: Who are the best team mates for you? Who is the one with whom you have most contact?
TV: In fact they are all great team mates for me. We have a very good bond with each other. But we are mostly a very young group of players and are all around the same age. And this really works out fine for the whole group.
WB: Some foreign players clearly still have some difficulty at times with the English language. Do you speak English among yourselves or is there also a lot of French spoken at times? Which language do you speak to Gallas in the field during a game?
TV: Normally we all speak English with each other. And also in the games I speak English with the other players including with Gallas.
WB: What does the future hold for you? Is your future going to be at Arsenal? Or do you dream of even a bigger club? Or do you see it as being Arsenal, with Vermaelen, the club that will rule football the next 10 years in England and Europe?
TV: ARSENAL IS TH BEST CLUB FOR ME. I don’t think any further right now.
WB: In what neighbourhood you live in London? Do you live in an apartment or a house in the centre of London or somewhere in the outskirts of London?
TV: I live in Hampstead. [For non-UK readers, this is part of north west London known for its exquisite houses and its expansive parkland.]
WB: How’s life in London for you? And for your girlfriend?
TV: We like the life in London that we have. We have adapted very well to London and to living in a big city. But Amsterdam was not a small town either. London really is a very nice city I think.
We would like to thank Thomas for spending his precious time and answering these questions and wish him all the best in his future career at The Arsenal.