Vermaelen is back and with his return, returns the dilemma of who the first choice center back pairing will be. The fact that Vermaelen still has the armband means Wenger still has huge faith in him while the captain’s armband isn’t an assurance of him playing as shown in the twilight of last season, Wenger has revealed that he still has huge plans for him.
“Yes, it is a bit like that [having Bould, Adams and Keown fighting for two spots],”
“The one who didn’t play [the decision] was not justifiable.
“In the end we played the three together in some games, but when I moved to a back four we were always in a position where you had to make a choice.
“I rotated and at some stage every time I made a decision [about who] was left out, I thought ‘it is not right’.”
“He is naturally a left-sided player, more than anybody else,” he said. “His natural position is there and I like to have a central defence where you have a right-footed player and a left-footed player. That is why I always build around Thomas.
“For the rest, he has all the attributes of a good centre back because he has the physical qualities and the technical qualities and the experience to read the game.
“He is a natural player, but sometimes you cannot be too complicated. It worked until now and we have another candidate as well in Sagna. Every game he has played there, he has done extremely well. So we have four good centre backs.”
From Wenger’s thoughts, it is obvious Wenger loves the combination of right and left footed defenders at center back and thas is something that gives the Belgian an edge. Both Mertesacker and Koscielny are right footed, Vermaelen is the only left footed center back Arsenal have. Though Wenger wants a left footed center-back in the team, it seems the partnership of right footed center-backs (Koscielny and Mertesacker, Mertesacker and Sagna, Koscielny and Sagna) have fared better.
The availability of Vermaelen will add renewed competition to the defense and help the rotation Wenger would have to do now that we have 6 games to play in less than 2 weeks but everyone wants to be a starter for the key games. Hence, he would have to step up his game and cut out the errors that characterized his game last season if he wants to stand a chance of displacing either the towering German or no nonsense French.
Should he fail to force his way back because it is risky changing a winning a team, Arsenal have won 5 games on the bounce with any of Mertesacker, Koscielny or Sagna in central defence so it might be risky to slot him back there. He might just have to make do with coming off the bench to see off games like he did against the Black Cats or try his hands on other positions his versatility might allow.