The weekend defeat at the hands of Queens Park Rangers was most definitely a wakeup call to an Arsenal side who kept the race for fourth and third places very much alive with the surprise defeat. In an uncharacteristic performance following a seven game unbeaten run, the usually steady Thomas Vermaelen was at fault for both Rangers goals and whilst the Arsenal defence has been improving of late, there is still room for improvement.
More recent reports have centred around the summer recruitment of a midfield enforcer to compliment the work of Alex Song and Yann M’Vila and Riccardo Montolivo are just the latest big names to be linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium, In addition to the ‘just when will he sign’ swoop for Lukas Podolski, little attention has been given to defensive targets at the end of the season, partly because of the recent shutouts but also because of the greater need to add to the more attacking side of the squad amidst a heavy reliance on Robin Van Persie for goals.
Nevertheless, a potential swoop for Ajax centre half Jan Vertonghen this summer would represent responsible business from the Arsenal manager. Questions about strength in depth have always been posed at an undoubted youthful-looking Arsenal side and aside from a competitive looking first eleven, the strength in reserve hasn’t always been clear to see, particularly when fresh impetus was required in the second half failed overhaul of AC Milan.
It is a well-known fact that the Arsenal defence has been in disarray at several points in the current season. Whilst Laurent Koscielny is the most improved Arsenal defender forging a decent looking partnership with Thomas Vermaelen, questions remain about Per Mertesacker’s pace and suiting to English football and the reserve comedy duo of Sebastian Squillaci and Johan Djourou strike fear into the Gunners fans hearts whenever they are called upon.
Vertonghen is a ball playing centre half, left footed, and much like Vermaelen, capable of playing left back or further up in midfield. Arsene Wenger has always liked the more technically able defender, and despite the panic signing of Per Mertesacker, has fancied this type, refraining from paying big for the brute strength of a Christopher Samba or Gary Cahill for example.
If you take the rosters of Chelsea and Manchester United, they are able to call on at least four able central defenders each marking the depth of their respective squads. The employment of Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Luiz and Vidic, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evans and Jones mean that when the inevitable factor of injury strikes, these squads are better coped than most to plug the gap with experience and undoubted ability.
Too many times when injury has struck Arsenal’s ranks, it has been curtains in terms of the team’s chances with the 8-2 humbling at Old Trafford demonstrating this point decisively. Players playing out of position or youngsters coming in to do makeweight-like roles have proved the undoing of Arsenal’s consistency and it has only been over recent weeks and with a larger squad to choose from, that the clubs fortunes have returned.
So back to Vertonghen. Not only did he come to prominence through the same Germinal Beerschot and Ajax youth sides as current Arsenal centre back Thomas Vermaelen but he indeed plays alongside him at full international level for Belgium. Vertonghen is actually the captain of Frank De Boer’s Ajax side at present; a similar role fulfilled by Vermaelen before his move to Arsenal in 2009. Ajax; a name steeped in European tradition, struggles to dominate the Eredivisie nowadays and are genuinely regarded as a selling club with Christian Eriksen, Gregory Van Der Wiel and indeed Vertonghen representing the marquee names in amidst a flurry of young academy bred stars who are now relied upon on a more regular basis.
With Vermaelen and Vertonghen both starting with a ‘V’ and an uncanny similarity in terms of positioning and upbringing setting the tone, it certainly seems a no brainer to try and lure Vertonghen to North London this summer. At 24, he is embarking on the prime of his career and looks for all an Arsene Wenger-type signing.
In what is likely to be a busy summer of upheaval at the Emirates Stadium, adding a top European defender in Vertonghen to an already-improving Gunners back line is the winning rationale which needs to be adopted by the ever-stubborn Frenchman in charge.
Would Vertonghen suit Arsenal? Is more competition for places required at the Emirates? Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Taylor_Will1989