Now that club legend and former captain Carles Puyol has retired and Gerard Pique is struggling to regain his form, manager Luis Enrique has had to address the lack of top quality center backs on the squad. He added Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia earlier this summer, but more depth is needed for the Catalan club to return to the glory of past years. The answer lies in Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, who has agreed to a five year contract and will sign for the Spanish giants on Sunday. He is a defender who will fit in to the team right away because of Arsene Wenger’s possession style of play, which is rather similar to Barcelona’s.
The Belgian is right in the middle of his prime at 28 and has proven to be a capable leader, because he has been the captain of Arsenal since 2012. He is also quite versatile, as he can play both center and left back depending on what’s needed. The ‘Verminator’ is also a capable goal scorer. He scored eight goals in his debut season for the gunners in 2009. He is a defender who is not afraid to have the ball at his feet, a skill that fits very well in a side like Barca. Despite being six feet tall, he is also rather quick and agile for his size.
The move for Vermaelen has a few consequences. Manchester United was one of the leading suitors for the big Belgian, while Barca was supposedly more interested in signing Liverpool defender and vice captain Daniel Agger. According to BBC, one of the reasons why the Red Devils did not push through in their pursuit of Vermaelen is that Wenger wanted to receive a player back in the deal.
Even though the Catalan club finished only three points behind league winners and champions league runners-up Atletico Madrid, the winners proved that having a solid defense is still one of the best ways to build a team.
Adding two defenders also ensures that Javier Mascherano will be able to stay in the midfield instead of the defense. His performance in the World Cup once again showed that he is one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Along with fellow midfielders Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and, Sergio Busquets; he could be a valuable player for the club this season as Xavi begins to wind down his career.
However, one concern with Vermaelen is his injury history. According to transfermarkt.com, he experienced Achilles tendon problems in 2010, which eventually lead him to have surgery on the tendon a year later. With his Achilles problems alone, he missed a total of 62 games. He remained relatively healthy for the 2012-2013 season but he then experienced knee problems the next season, which cost him 11 games.