Vermaelen proves Wenger is the Simon Cowell of football

The Belgium International Thomas Vermaelen has already proved a bargain at £10million, as his club Arsenal go from strength to strength.

Arsene Wenger wanted a defender during last summer. It was the Frenchman’s top target, with money – for once – not an issue. Arsenal fans had been crying out for a no-nonsense tank of a player throughout what was a below-par 08/09 season for the Gunners.

Barely a month had past since the end of the campaign and in came that defender.

Wenger was more than pleased with capturing a player he envisaged as the final block of stone in his aching defensive wall. Arsenal fans have seldom been treated to getting what they want from their manager. A defender is what they all wanted and so, to Wenger, a defender was what they got.

The "Verminator"

The "Verminator"

Only Thomas Vermaelen wasn’t exactly what the Arsenal faithful were anticipating. A relatively young recruit, at 23 years-old the Belgium had only ever been tested in the Dutch league. He stands just under 6ft, yet reports suggested he is a monster aerially both in defence and attack. This was the guy – the tough tackling, no holds bar soldier – who was going to put a stop to the comedy of errors ever present in the Gunners’ back four.

Well, Arsenal fans can be forgiven for feeling a tad pessimistic of the former Ajax captain. However, they cannot be forgiven for doubting Arsene “Simon Cowell” Wenger. Many saw the signing as a failure from the Arsenal boss. Many felt his decision not to recruit an experienced defender like Cannavaro – even the proven Hangeland – was ample evidence showing Le Professor had finally lost it.

Only Vermaelen leapt out of the starting blocks.

A commanding performance on his debut away to Everton, along with a goal to boot, left Arsenal fans murmuring to themselves as to whether Wenger had pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat.

More impressive displays – and cracking goals – followed, resulting in the defender picking up the club’s player of the month for both August and September.

He is already a fans favourite for his never say die attitude, even when the team seem to be cruising. Arsenal’s number 5 is now fondly and harmoniously known around the Emirates as the “Verminator”.

It is a nickname that shows admiration whilst aptly describing the heroic attributes the youngster brings to the team.

The Verminator is a warrior.

He’s the player Arsenal fans dreamt of. He is a footballer who breeds professionalism, tirelessly thriving to be the best, to win every ball, every challenge and every game. His game is built around guts, graft and a touch of class.

Andrei Arshavin, the pint-sized Russia, was the star buy from Wenger in January. His goals have and will continue to grab the headlines from starry-eyed plaudits. The Verminator’s resilience should be heralded in similar fashion. He is the team’s hard man, a key reason as to why Arsenal have started so well and why his partnership with Gallas has blossomed. Where he is the chalk (toughness), Gallas is the cheese (artistry).

As Musa Okwonga pointed out in his book A Cultured Left Foot, every successful team needs a Verminator:

The hard man is a feature of any successful football team: its guardian, its cornerstone, and its dark heart…(they) are the anvils upon which the reputations of many opponents as beaten or broken altogether.


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