Vermaelen’s Leadership Qualities Can Make A Big Difference

These days most fans just talk about defensive reinforcements in the form of a Centre Back and a Goalkeeper. Some also add a DM to that list. Judging by what Arsene has been saying and the rumours doing the rounds it seems fair to say that for once Arsene agrees with the fans and is working towards these signings.

I’ve maintained all along that we will certainly improve as a squad if we get a good keeper and a quality central defender who can double up in defensive midfield. But regulars know that more than the signings I’ve always talked about the system, training, and collective defending.

I tend to believe that we defend well when we can play our football. Once we can keep the ball on the ground the opposition’s chances are automatically limited. On top of that if our attack is doing well on a given day, we push the opponents so far back that they can only rely on counters or hope for freak goals.

Of course, on occasions we do gift goals even in such games but by and large the result is in our favour.

The contrast seems to be equally true but I’m not spending any time in working on the statistics for now. When we struggle to get our game flowing the opposition tends to trouble us more and our defence is under a lot more pressure. Obviously, with attacking minded full backs and ball playing central defenders there is always a chance of a mistake. When we are constantly under pressure, these chances multiply.

It’s not surprising then that there have been many games in the recent past when we’ve conceded 2 or 3 goals in a short space of time. Normally, the blame falls on the guy whose mistake seems most obvious. The keepers, Denilson, and Clichy have been favourites in this regard.

I’ve almost always disagreed with this approach of heaping the blame on one or two individuals for a collective failure. In the past I’ve showed, I believe conclusively (Birmingham Goal Analysis, Blackburn Goals Analysis), that there were at least four or five mistakes for each goal.

There have also been many generalized criticisms of Wenger and Arsenal over the last few years. Usually, I try to debunk them with detail oriented analysis but there is one that I consider valid.

At times, Arsenal lack a leader on the pitch.

It’s not always. When we have our first team playing or even if we have one or two missing we tend to do well. We miss a leader when some key players go missing all at once. Unfortunately, this has has been a frequent phenomena in the last two seasons.

I think the leaders role on the pitch cannot be performed by a keeper or a striker. They are at two ends of the pitch and aren’t involved with the play all the time. The way these players read the game is also completely different. I’d say a central midfielder is the best leader and Fabregas did an excellent job whenever he was on the pitch last year. He wasn’t very vocal but he lead by example and his talent allowed him to control the game in most cases.

We missed him towards the end and it is quite possible that we will miss him at the start of this season, although it might be only for a game. To be pragmatic, we must be prepared to lose him for a few weeks in the season simply because he is constantly under attack.

All this has led me to believe that we need another leader on the pitch. I don’t think it would be fair to put this mantle on Song, Nasri or Diaby as they are still relatively young. Van Persie could do it but he is normally at one end. Arshavin doesn’t seem to have the personality to pull people along. Considering these factors I feel the best person for this job would be Vermaelen.

The Belgian has the experience of being a captain at the highest level. His workrate is fantastic and his commitment has never been questioned. Moreover, he seems to have that hard, no nonsense personality that can be so important when one has to take charge of things.

I’m really hoping Arsene and his staff will realise that they need to encourage Vermaelen as an on field leader. Some players have a natural aura about them and they become leaders without any effort. I’m not sure the Belgian is in that category but that doesn’t mean that he can’t do the job. Sometimes you just have to flick the switch on for someone to shine. It’s time Arsene does that.

I can see the youngsters listening to the Belgian. I can see him forcing the team into shape, controlling the style of play, and dictating the tempo when the going gets tough. He can definitely use all the help he gets from others but he will have to stand tall and strong.

I realize that this is an abstract discussion and connecting such a topic to points gained on the pitch is not easy. I’d say it’ll more about points not lost. In other words, Vermaelen can help us save 8-10 points if he takes charge at the right moments. I’m confident he can do it but it’s up to the player and his manager to prove me right.

18 Responses to Vermaelen’s Leadership Qualities Can Make A Big Difference

  1. Sriram says:

    Excellent. Anyway, on my write up, I’ve already mentioned Vermaelen as the key person in the Arsenal defence, if he leads the line pretty well, then we have every chance of tightening our defence. Collectivity and full back defending are two areas where we have to improve, off the ball work rate is more important this year, if we pull that off, then we are in for a treat of a season! I believe we can!

  2. Karthik says:

    I usually dont comment, but I must say, you’re one of my favourite writers. You said vermaelen could save us 8-10 points and I think that’s a bit over the top. 4-5 at best is what i reckon. And we do need defenders, but there is no reason why Nordtveldt and Bartley could be our 4th and 5th choice is there? They’ve played together and can’t be worse than the Campbell-Silvestre combo. But I do hope we get a keeper. Good article, not you’re best, but this is preseason!

    • Manav says:

      Kyle Bartley’s left for the Blades on a season-long loan. He wanted to be sent away on loan ’cause the boss @ Bramall lane wants him to feature in their starting 11.

    • desigunner says:

      I thought we could have saved 2 points at West Ham, 3 at Wigan, and at least 1 at Burely, Tottenham and Blackburn with better organized and collective defending. It could also have made a difference in some other games like Everton… so I arrived at 8-10 points.

      In some of those games Vermaelen wasn’t on the pitch but I was thinking about the improvements that can be made with a defensive leader on the pitch.

      • Karthik says:

        Well I dont remember the Burnley game, the others I do and i agree with you. Whats your opinion of Carlos Cuellar from Aston Villa? I quite like him, think he’d be a good signing? ( i know it’s not happening, but still just a hypothetical situation)

      • desigunner says:

        He looks like a decent defender but I’ve seen him on and off. At this level it’s important that someone can do it week in, week out. Not sure if he has that because I don’t get time to follow Villa that regularly.

        Was he their first choice last year? I do remember they had a good defensive record.

  3. Zgunner says:

    Good article… well thought out and well written.

  4. mcmellish says:

    Quality article again. I’ve been reading your posts for a while now and i must say that you are head and shouldrs above most other blogs in regards to the quality of your articles and your perspective on Arsenal as a club and a way of life. Keep up the brilliant work.


    100% or 120% agree if Cesc capt and TV as vice I think the two guy,s will lead Arsenal to the top .both nature leaders with skill and will power the team well give their all under their leader ship.

  6. Jimmie says:

    I really wish Arsenal get the Bosnian captain, to add more leadership at defence.

  7. Manav says:

    Apart from Cesc, Rosicky is the only mid-fielder who’s worth the captain’s armband but given his injury record, Vermaelen emerges as the next, most viable choice. If only he could get more vocal.

    • desigunner says:

      I thought of Rosicky, but I’m not sure he will be that regular in the starting eleven. Also there is an element of casualness to his game which could rub off on the others, especially youngsters, as well.

      Still, he is seen as leader for his national side and could certainly do a job for us if given the responsibility.

  8. Praaam says:

    Nice article…I think our defense would be tighter if we worked harder off the ball..another defensive signing would surely be a boost..but i feel every player needs to understand that their commitment and energy levels should not drop during the 90 mins..thats probably why we concede stupid goals against small teams..I also feel we need to improve our defending during counter attacks as thats the way the big teams try to beat us..

    • desigunner says:

      I’ve always felt off the ball movement is the most important aspect of football, in attack and defence.

      Focus for 90 minutes is also a very important point that you make. We do see a player or two dropping their guard and that can be dangerous … in fact it has proven costly.

  9. santori says:

    Yes Vermaelen has good leadership qualities in him. He also has good fight.

    As good a player as Fabregas is, I don’t quite see him as Captain material (especially not after the summer’s longer drawn out than necessary affair )

    OTOH, would not mind one bit if we got a seasoned leader/captain of a National team (like Lugano or a keeper) with experience who can also further support Vermaelen in ‘rallying the troops’, particularly when the chips are down (and when we need to up our ‘off the ball movement’ or just tighten ship).

  10. jp says:

    Great article. I agree wholeheartedly. Denilson’s defensive abilities are lacking. He brings those poor defending habits you often see in Brazilians. The mentality that says “Someone else will do the work, pick up the man for me,” but we get burnt by it over and over. I remember the game against United when Rooney ran straight past him from beyond the halfway line to our penalty spot and Denilson did not have the sense to pick him up. Unbelievable. The issue is balance, we have this super skillful team and nobody wants to do the donkey work as a result defensively we run around like chickens with no heads on occasion. Balancing the team with some defensive minded players who are still skillful offensively would be a good. Finding this, I admit, is difficult though. What happened to old defensive tactics of getting goal side, putting players on the posts for corners (and staying there), Center Backs who are commanding and competent in the air (It was refreshing to see Sol display this again) and actually marking a man tightly (rather than the standard 3 yards or more we allow on occasion).

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