Ron Vlaar Or Ashley Williams: Who Should Replace Vermaelen At Arsenal?

The summer has so far been a very fruitful one for Arsenal. Not only have they adequately replaced the players who left, but also brought into couple of really good signings that will hold them in good stead for the season to come. Arsenal now go into a new campaign with a squad that looks great going forward, has plenty of options in midfield and with the arrival of David Ospina looks well-stocked in the goalkeeping department as well.

But one area in which they are blessed with quality, but not quantity, is at the back. Although the Gunners looked solid defensively last season, just like last time out, they lack the numbers at the back at the start of this one. The addition of Mathieu Debuchy in place of Bacary Sagna means that they have at least two players fighting for one place. It is the same on the other flank as well with Kieran Gibbs ahead of Nacho Monreal and unless the latter leaves they at least cover either Debuchy or Gibbs gets injured.

The same however, cannot be said of the centre back slot. As good as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were last season, they only had Thomas Vermaelen as back-up. With Mertesacker unlikely to play in their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace and Vermaelen likely to move away from the club to either Manchester United or Barcelona, the club might be left with just one fit centre back for the clash. And the lack of cover might just throw a spanner in the works of their title charge.

So, there is no doubt that the Gunners do need someone as a back-up irrespective of whether Vermaelen leaves or stays. In this article, we look into two realistic targets Arsenal should look into – Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar and Swansea City’s Ashley Williams. So who fits in better at Arsenal? Will be one of heroes of the Netherlands’ third-place finish in Vlaar or will it be Swansea’s Mr. Dependable?

While both of them are undoubtedly talented, let us take a closer look as to who will be a better fit at Arsenal. The three main criteria of comparison is their defensive contribution, their threat going forward and their suitability to the club.


Defensive contribution of Vlaar and Williams in the Premier League last season

  Ron Vlaar Ashley Williams
Games Played 32 34
Interceptions 2 2.3
Tackles won 1.7 1.1
Clearances 7 9.5
Blocks 0.6 1.1
% of Aerial duels won 60.8 57.1
Fouls committed 0.3 0.9

(All stats per Whoscored)

Both Vlaar and Williams were a key part of their respective sides last season and much of that was because of their ability at the back. In terms of blocks, tackles and interceptions, there is not much to choose between the two and while Williams made more blocks and interceptions, Vlaar comes out on top in terms of tackles, but it is a very close-run thing indeed. It is only in terms of clearances that there is a clear winner, with Williams emerging out on top in this battle.

However, Vlaar, or “concrete Ron” as he is fondly known, was a giant in the air, winning more than 60% of his aerial duels and leading an otherwise inexperienced Villa back-line to safety last time around. Not only did Vlaar win so many duels but he also fouled his opponents a lot less. In fact, although Vlaar was physical in his approach, he made just one-third of the fouls that Williams did and that as a defender is simply sublime. Both at the World Cup and throughout the League last season, Vlaar held together an inexperienced defence and showed the value of being not just a great defender but a leader as well and that is why, defensively Vlaar comes out on top.

Attacking threat

Offensive contribution of Vlaar and Williams in the Premier League last season

  Ron Vlaar Ashley Williams
Games Played 32 34
Goals/ assists 0/1 1/1
Chances created 4 5
Pass accuracy 77 86
Passes 25.5 48.6

(All stats per Whoscored)

While it was a close fight defensively, offensively there is simply just one winner. Whether it is starting attacks, creating opportunities for team mates from the back or attacking the ball from set-pieces, there is one clear winner among the two. Ashley Williams has shown time and again why he is so good at bringing the ball out of the back and not just scoring but also creating opportunities for his team-mates. Williams not only passes the ball a lot more than Vlaar but is also far more accurate than the Dutchman and that is why Williams is without doubt, the better of the two players going forward.

Suitability to club

With Mertesacker and Koscielny likely to remain first-choice once again, the Gunners need someone who doesn’t mind being on the bench. While both Vlaar and Williams play for clubs that finished in the bottom half of the table, the latter is wanted by other clubs as well and would be looking for a first-team place. Vlaar on the other hand, has shown that he doesn’t mind playing second fiddle and the fact that he is that Arsenal could very well do with a physically imposing centre back.


On the back of a sublime World Cup, Vlaar looks like a much better proposition than Williams, who is likely to not just cost more but would also command a first-team slot right away. Vlaar’s experience and his commanding presence in central defence, would be a welcome addition to the Gunners, who would do well to snap him up before some other club does.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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