2013/14 English Premier League
Before Arsenal signed Thomas Vermaelen for a reported fee of £10 million in the summer of 2009, former captain Tony Adams warned: "I don't think the punters at Arsenal would like another small one." But while he stands at just 5' 11", Vermaelen has proven to be a defender of some stature.
A graduate of the famed Ajax academy, Vermaelen benefitted from a loan spell with RKC Waalwijk before breaking into the Amsterdam club's first team in the 2005-06 season. Alongside Johnny Heitinga, now of Everton, Vermaelen continued his progression and enjoyed back-to-back KNVB Beker success in 2006 and 2007.
Having made his Belgium debut in 2006, Vermaelen was enjoying a growing reputation on the continent and with Kolo Toure moving to Manchester City, Arsenal came calling in the summer of 2009. After a prolonged period of negotiations, his arrival was finally confirmed on June 19.
Though Adams, among others, had expressed concerns about his lack of height, Vermaelen quickly impressed in red and white, scoring on his Premier League debut in a 6-1 rout of Everton. Indeed, after eight games he was Arsenal's top scorer with four goals - ensuring he became a firm fans' favourite. That status never slipped in a superb campaign that saw him named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Alas, his 2010-11 season was plagued by injury and he made just five Premier League appearances. He enjoyed better luck in his third term, though, as he was named as the club's vice-captain following Cesc Fabregas' departure and in October 2011 he signed a contract extension at Emirates Stadium. The Belgian's aerial prowess proved an asset to Wenger's side in the run-in to the 2011-12 season and he scored crucial goals against Newcastle and Everton to help Arsenal finish ahead of Tottenham and clinch a Champions League spot.
Robin Van Persie's departure to Manchester United ensured that Vermaelen was awarded the club captaincy for the 2012-13 campaign but it proved to be a disappointing one for the commanding centre-back who was dropped for Arsenal's crucial run-in due to a series of poor performances.
He continues to be a prominent member of Belgium's golden generation however and has contributed to an enviable defensive record which provided a strong foundation for Belgium's qualification for the 2014 World Cup.
Strengths: Quick, determined and as strong as an ox, Vermaelen is a formidable opponent. He is commanding in the air, despite his relative lack of height, and anticipates and deals with danger well. He attacks the ball with relish and has an eye for goal.
Weaknesses: The Belgian can be caught out of position if no-one covers for him during one of his runs forward.
Career high: Being named in the PFA Team of the Year following an impressive debut campaign for Arsenal in the 2009-10 season.
Career low: Captained Arsenal in their League Cup quarter-final defeat to League Two side Bradford City and missed the crucial penalty which could have potentially ended Arsenal's search for silverware.
Style: Robust, committed, uncompromising, a tough-tackling defender.
Quotes: "I quickly knew that Thomas Vermaelen was a good football player but you don't know while he doesn't come to England, how tough he is mentally and physically. That was the big surprise to us because this guy has been exceptional." Arsene Wenger, April 2010.
Trivia: The defender has been nicknamed 'The Verminator' by Arsenal fans -- a reference to the virtually indestructible Terminator of Hollywood fame.
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