While a frenetic start to the World Cup in Brazil has ensured transfer talk has been reduced to mere background noise, one story on Monday morning quickly caught the attention of puzzled Manchester United and Arsenal fans.
Thomas Vermaelen is on the verge of becoming the second Gunners skipper to move to Old Trafford in two years. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Belgian international has agreed terms with United and will join Robin van Persie at Old Trafford when the clubs can come to an agreement over the transfer fee.
After the club were intensely linked with a move for Borussia Dortmund's rock Mats Hummels just a few weeks ago, a move for Arsenal's third choice centre-half represents a downgrade of sorts. Is this unexpected move a Louis van Gaal-inspired masterstroke or another glaring misjudgement from United in the transfer market? IB Times UK consider the pros and cons behind this proposed move.
PRO – Vermaelen will seamlessly fit into van Gaal's formation and approach.
One of the 28-year-old's most striking attributes is his ability to bring the ball out of defence with confidence and, more importantly, a clue of what to do with it next. Defenders who are at ease with the ball at their feet are likely to be important to the Dutchman, especially a left-footed one. Should the incoming United boss plan to implement his 3-5-2 formation that bewildered Spain, a naturally left-footed defender to occupy that side of his back-three is essential, while Vermaelen's athleticism suggests he would also become a valuable component to van Gaal's pressing game.
CON – He is unlikely to be a significant improvement on current options
In the departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, United have been expected to add an established presence at centre-half to complement Jonny Evans and the still-emerging partnership of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. While he is still recognised as club captain at the Emirates, Vermaelen has not been in Arsene Wenger's first choice plans for almost 18 months. While Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker remain one of the Premier League's most formidable centre-half partnerships, Vermaelen's failure to trouble them other than in the case of injury is not a glowing review of his abilities.
PRO – £10m deal embodies a low risk, high potential move
With Vermaelen's current contract at the Emirates set to expire in the summer of 2015, Arsenal are not expected to command a high fee for the player. An offer of £10m has been mooted in early reports, a figure hardly likely to make a sizeable dent in Louis van Gaal's transfer funds, which are reported to be in excess of £100m. Should the Belgian rediscover the form that saw him earn a reputation as one of the Premier League's most adept centre-halves following his arrival from Ajax five years ago it may prove money well spent.
CON – Steady decline suggests an on-pitch revival is unlikely
Vermaelen's alarming tendency to drift out of position was why Arsene Wenger chose to bench him. His failure to break the Koscielny-Mertesacker partnership since then merely suggests he is yet to erase that fault from his game and at 28, are we likely to see a dramatic turnaround? While there are certainly worse options than Vermaelen avaliable – particularly at what is expected to be a nominal fee - that sort of mentality in the transfer market is hardly a ringing endorsement for a club who are desperate to show everyone they have learnt from last summer's mistakes.
CON – United have enough injury-prone options in defence
Following his impressive first season in the Premier League an Achilles injury saw the Belgian side-lined for the first-half of the 2010/11 campaign before he suffered a similar injury at the start of the 2011/12 season. It was in the following season, after particularly woeful performances against Liverpool and Manchester City, that Arsene Wenger's faith in the defender waned and his hopes of forcing his way back into the first team were hampered by a back injury that sidelined him throughout the summer and into the early months of the 2013/14 campaign. Amid Laurent Koscielny's own injury problems in the second-half of the season, Vermaelen was unable to provide his manager with the option of his services on a consistent basis as knee, calf, shin and hamstring injuries between January and May struck.
In Evans, Smalling and Jones, United have a trio of defensive options who are perhaps the club's most frequent visitors to the physio room. The presence of another injury-susceptible option seems pointless.
Verdict: Pros 2 Cons 3: While his probable price-tag suggests this would be a low risk deal, United and van Gaal placing their faith in Vermaelen appears to be an option fraught with potential complications.