Should Liverpool and Arsenal be biting Barca’s hand off?

Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal

As bizarre transfer rumours go, this morning’s reports that Barcelona might be mulling over a move for one of Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen and Liverpool’s Daniel Agger is right up there with the best of them.

Although on closer inspection, for however patchy the duo’s form may have been this season, both Vermaelen and Agger certainly fit the bill as the breed of centre-half that the Catalan club might be looking for. There are few defenders better equipped to fit the remit of technical excellence and astuteness in possession that the men from the Camp Nou require for their back four.

But while their ability to build play from the back has never been in doubt this season, far more crucially, it’s been the bread-and-butter defensive side of their game that has had more than the odd question park held up against it. And if you’re supporters of either club, should a megabucks offer come to the table this summer, you might not potentially view such a scenario as the end of the world.

One bad season doesn’t necessarily make a bad player and even though neither of them have been at their best this term, their qualities are still there to see. Daniel Agger in particular has shown, after a spell of real indifference at the turn of the year, what he’s made of. A series of poor performances doesn’t equate to a club selling up at the first sign of trouble.

When Barcelona are interested in one of your players, however, the game changes considerably. Even in the case of Agger – a man whose dedication to his current club can be seen permanently inked onto his knuckles – the overtures of a move to Camp Nou have publicly been stated as, “the only club that could tempt me to leave Liverpool.”

With Arsenal in a real dogfight to qualify for the Champions League this season, while Vermaelen has no such body art inscribing his love for the club, you imagine he might not be quite as hard to persuade with the offer of a La Liga and genuine European tilt next season. Either way, when Barcelona come calling, heads generally tend to be turned.

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But although a Barcelona knock at the door usually fills supporters with real fear and worry when it comes to hanging on to one of their players, should they offer an exceedingly large amount of money for either Agger, or in particular, Thomas Vermaelen, would supporters really be hitting the forums and fanzines to voice their untold disgust?

On a very superficial basis, selling Vermaelen would look to be another motif of the fading force that is Arsenal football club. You can picture the headlines already and sale of not just another first teamer, but the current club captain, would look to be something of a PR disaster.

Although digging beneath the superficial and although it’d take a considerable offer to make the deal stick, would Arsene Wenger really turn down, say, a bid of £15million for the Belgian? There’s already a school of thought that the captain’s armband has given Vermaelen something of an unwarranted stay of execution in the Gunners’ first-team and with a ready-made skipper in Jack Wilshere waiting in the wings, the captaincy would hardly be an overwhelming factor in any decision to sell.

And when you consider the season Vermaelen has endured so far, £15million seems an extremely generous offer following a term which has seen his stock plummet drastically. Arsenal’s defensive issues must be shared as a collective rather than simply saddled upon one individual, but while Per Mertesacker seems to be the people’s choice in terms of a scapegoat, Vermaelen has performed some way short of a top-four Premier League defender this season.

In the case of Agger, the Dane would arguably a command a slightly higher fee and a figure of £20million has been mooted on more than the one occasion. Yet despite – very much like Vermaelen – being one of the best defenders in this league on his day, that day simply hasn’t come often enough this season.

His peak performances leave him very few peers but in terms of consistency, Agger’s left an awful lot to be desired this term and following his performance in the 2-0 defeat to West Brom a few weeks back, Liverpool fans weren’t shy of telling him exactly what they thought about his poor run of form. Brendan Rodgers rightfully defended the Dane when the critique was at its fiercest, but for as well as he’s played for parts of this season, his musings that Agger has had an ‘outstanding’ term seem generous to say the least.

Whether Barcelona fancy making a move for either defender remains to be seen, but, the feeling is that the Spanish giants will be dipping into the transfer market to recruit another centre-half. And whether this morning’s reports are tabloid fantasy or an accurate inside tip, whoever sits at the top of that list, you can’t imagine the likes of either Vermaelen or Agger are particularly far away.

Neither Liverpool nor Arsenal will be willing to part with their central defenders on the cheap, but every player has their price. And should Barcelona present a deal tantalizing enough, then a potential departure for either of the pair might not be the end of the world at both clubs – perhaps especially so on the red half of North London.


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