What should Thomas Vermaelen do?


With Arsenal’s rumored interest in Swansea center-back Ashley Williams, the focus shifts to out-of-form Gunners center-back Thomas Vermaelen.

For the last two months of the season, the Belgian’s backside was firmly planted on the bench as Arsene Wenger opted for a center-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Wenger implemented the decision following Vermaelen’s horrid showing in the 2-1 loss to rivals Spurs on March 3rd.

Since that match, the Arsenal captain has only appeared in a single Premier League fixture, the 3-1 victory over Norwich City (Mertesacker was suspended for the match). Wenger’s decision to bench Vermaelen proved a stroke of genius, as the Gunners finished on a brisk run of form going undefeated in their last 10 matches (winning eight and drawing only twice) to finish in 4th place and capture a coveted spot in the Champions League.

So what’s prompted Vermaelen’s drop in form this season?

Mainly, he’s been too aggressive making runs out of the back. This overly zealous desire to get forward leaves the rest of the Arsenal defense exposed. Then, when Vermaelen tries to recover he’s either unable to do so or commits daft fouls. Good teams punish these mistakes.

So the question becomes – If Arsenal do snap up the £12 million rated Williams, what should Vermaelen do?

With the Brazil World Cup now a mere 12 months away, the decision will prove vital to Vermaelen’s career.

If he stays at Arsenal and reclaims his starting spot in a club with four (above-average) center-backs, it’s highly likely that Belgian national team coach, Marc Wilmots, will call Vermaelen into his squad for next summer. If, however, Vermaelen stays at the Emirates and his form fails to improve, there’s little chance that he’ll be suiting up for Diables Rouges come June 2013.

The other option is to leave North London and look for a rebirth at another club. If you believe the rumors, clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United are both interested in Vermaelen’s services.

The Catalan giants are desperate for a new center-back to partner with Gerard Pique and Vermaelen’s speed and offensive capabilities could be a tremendous fit for the Blaugrana. But again, if the Belgian’s form fails to improve there’s no guarantee of a spot on that squad, especially with Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano all expected to be fully fit by next August.

Cracking the Starting XI at Manchester United would be even more difficult for Vermaelen. Despite his 34 years of experience, Rio Ferdinand enjoyed such a brilliant 2012-13 campaign that United recently handed him a new one year deal. Jonny Evans is another center-back who quietly impressed this season while Nemandja Vidic is nearly back to peak condition following 14 months of injury hell. A wonderful club to play for, surely, but can he hack it at Old Trafford?

Of course, if Vermaelen wants to reduce the risk of not playing and to prove himself worthy of a call into Belgium’s World Cup squad, he can always transfer to a Premier League club outside the Top 4.

With Newcastle’s struggling defense and captain Fabricio Colocinni set to leave Tyneside, the Magpies could be a wonderful fit for the Belgian. Vermaelen could also make an immediate impact at Liverpool, where Martin Skrtel has fallen out of favor and Jamie Carragher is set to retire. The 27 year old would also be welcome at a club like Everton where Sylvain Distin is showing signs of aging and a partnership with Phil Jagielka could prove lethal.

One way or another, Thomas Vermaelen has some serious decisions to make. What do you think Vermaelen should do?







VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

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The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

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Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON — Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”


2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

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Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

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The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

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Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016