First Milan and now QPR, something may be wrong with the wiring of Arsenal's Verminator after recent nightmares at the back...
Following yesterday's 2-1 defeat against relegation threatened QPR, Arsenal have offered Spurs a route back into the fight for third spot.
Tottenham are now just three points behind the Gunners and could draw level with a win today against Swansea, or leapfrog them if they win by four goals or more.
Much of the blame for the Loftus Road beating has to be attributed to defender Thomas Vermaelen. No one likes to hammer an individual who is usually a key component of the team, but 'The Verminator' as the fans have nicknamed him, had another of his worrying shockers.
Usually a solid and consistent performer, the term 'The Verminator' was coined during a stunning début season for the centre-back after a £10million move from Ajax. Almost ever present alongside William Gallas in 2009/2010, Vermaelen delighted the Arsenal faithful with an extraordinary combination of technique and aggression.
He also showed a keen eye for the target, registering eight goals during his first campaign in English football, a staggering return for a centre-back who was still adapting to his new surroundings. Equally adept at thundering home headers and curling in wonder strikes, Vermaelen looked the best defender in the league along with Vidic.
Gooners and no doubt Thomas himself are currently thinking, “Come on mate, you’re better than this.”
The Verminator's second season unfortunately proved he wasn't made of wires and circuits, not through poor performances but a troublesome achilles injury which restricted him to just five games.
However he bounced back from individual setback to return to the back-line in August last year, and became an increasingly influential figure as Arsenal struggled early on after the departures of Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy. Helping Arsenal fight back into Champions League contention, Vermaelen popped up with crucial winners recently, heading in away at Everton and prodding home against Newcastle in stoppage time.
Despite his moments of glory this year, Vermaelen has had an awkward tendency to have 90 minute nightmares in the odd game. Like the Milan mauling at the San Siro, when The Verminator's powers deserted him when he needed them most as Robinho, Ibrahimovic and Prince Boateng ran riot smashing four goals past his defence.
This seemed like a one-off shocker against a quality European team, but the Belgian added to his worst performances in Red and White with an equally disastrous display against QPR yesterday.
After just 20 minutes Vermaelen was caught wrong side of Adel Taarabt as he received the ball with his back to goal, and as the defender impatiently jumped in to challenge the Moroccan, QPR's playmaker skipped around him and coolly finished for the hosts opener. Vermaelen looked ashamed.
It was a first goal for Taarabt in the Premier League, which now leaves Stewart Downing as the division's least prolific player. 62 attempts on goal without registering is a telling statistic for Liverpool's £20m flop. Anyway, that's another story.
At times his season he has looked more Bambi on ice than Arnold Schwarzenegger on more than one occasion.
Arsenal did get back into the game through Theo Walcott, who played a one-two with the post around Paddy Kenny before finding the net. The forward has had his critics this season, but registering his 10th goal of the campaign with a second strike in as many matches means he is answering them loudly.
However the visitors gave up all three points when Vermaelen handed QPR a potentially crucial win in their battle to avoid the drop. Jamie Mackie bombed down the right flank to face Arsenal's vice captain, who slipped to the turf allowing his opponent time and space in the box to square for Samba Diakhite to net the winner. You could almost see the Verminator self-combust, this time not just embarrassed but visibly angry with the mistake.
Now it is clear that Arsenal shouldn't be dropping Vermaelen or anything like that, he has proved himself as a classy defender throughout his near three year stint at the Emirates. However, this season has certainly marked a re-think of his indestructible talents, having looked more Bambi on ice than Arnold Schwarzenegger on more than one occasion.
It is a shame to chastise a player who is usually so dependable, but the nature of his flops in Italy and West London are a worrying sign. Laurent Koscielny has improved hugely this season, and now looks to be more secure than his defensive partner. With Per Mertesacker to return from injury soon and Johan Djourou in reserve Arsenal have back up, but perhaps they need a summer signing to place pressure on Vermaelen's position.
Equally adept at thundering home headers and curling in wonder strikes, Vermaelen looked the best defender in the league along with Vidic.
He had a great début season in North London, and since coming back from injury has been one of the first names on the sheet for Wenger. Maybe if compatriot and fellow defender Jan Vertonghen was brought in this would give Vermaelen the competition needed to stop his focus slipping and producing stinkers.
The two are close friends off the pitch and played together at the Amsterdam Arena, so his signature could be just what Vermaelen needs to kick on and become the world-class player his talents suggest is possible
Either way, The Verminator needs a boost to banish his out-of-sorts displays from memory, and to make sure they don't return any-time soon. He will know more than anyone that performances of this nature are not good enough for the club or indeed reflect his stature in the game.
Gooners and no doubt Thomas himself are currently thinking, “Come on mate, you're better than this.”
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