Arsene Wenger this morning rolled back the years in a press-conference filled with dry humor ahead of Arsenal’s return to Wembley for the annual domestic curtain raiser as the FA Cup winners take on the Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield.
There was much talk regarding the fitness of Theo Walcott as well as possible selection combinations at Wembley on Sunday. However it was to be Arsene Wenger’s comments with regards to the future of club captain Thomas Vermaelen that sparked the most interest.
“Yes, we have received bids [for Thomas Vermaelen], Yes, I think they [Manchester United] could be in the group.
“I said at the start of pre-season that Thomas could leave us because he needs to play. Now he is in a position where it is difficult for us to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity.”
According to Jeremy Wilson in The Telegraph newspaper, Arsenal has also received an official offer from FC Barcelona for Vermaelen with the two clubs in question now set to fight it out to secure the signature of the 28-year-old centre-half.
Both Manchester United and Barcelona are in need of central defenders. Puyol has retired, leaving the Spanish giants bereft of experience at the back although the arrival of Jeremy Mathieu has address those concerns whereas Louis van Gaal has been entrusted with the task of replacing club stalwarts Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Vermaelen has fallen out of favor at Arsenal due to a combination of a horrendous injury record over the past three years combined with the outstanding partnership formed between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny starting in March 2013 at the Allianz Arena.
As a result, he has found himself on the fringes at the Emirates with Arsene Wenger only ever able to find a space for the Belgian at left-back, which does neither Vermaelen nor the team any real favors.
Mats Hummels was the first-choice target of both Barcelona and Manchester United. However the German international is set to stay with Dortmund for at least one more season with manager Jurgen Klopp stating earlier this summer that talk of Hummels leaving for Manchester couldn’t be taken seriously.
The will of Thomas Vermaelen is important at this point. Arsenal would prefer to sell the player to Barcelona to avoid a repeat of the fan ire that followed Robin van Persie’s move to Old Trafford, albeit under wholly different circumstances.
Furthermore Arsenal are now in a financial position not to worry about a minimal difference of around £2million between United and Barcelona’s respective offers and could quite easily stand in Vermaelen’s way should he wish to move North to Manchester. However it must be said Arsene Wenger has never done this throughout his tenure in English football and is unlikely to start now.
With the Premier League season just over a week away and with United looking to complete a number of signings before hosting Swansea City in the division’s opener, it is likely we will see some movement in the coming days. Having said that, do not discount Barcelona with Gianluca Di Marzio of Sky Sport in Italy suggesting the Camp Nou is the Belgian’s most likely destination.