Vermaelen Signs; Sagna Speaks

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Arsenal have made its first major transfer signing of the summer, as the club have officially announced that Belgian international defender Thomas Vermaelen has joined the Gunners from Dutch Eredivisie side Ajax.

“Thomas is a great signing for Arsenal Football Club, and we are all delighted that he is joining us,” said manager Arsene Wenger. “Thomas is a solid performer with good experience of Champions League and UEFA Cup football and is also a regular with the Belgium national team.”

Speaking on Vermaelen’s versatility, Wenger added that “Thomas is primarily a left-footed centre back, but he’s multi-functional and can also play at left back. He is strong technically with a positive winner’s attitude and I have no doubt his arrival will strengthen our team. Thomas Vermaelen will be a huge asset to Arsenal.”

Agreeing to a long-term contract with Arsenal for an undisclosed fee, the 23-year-old Vermaelen was club captain at the Ajax this past season, and made 143 appearances with the Amsterdam side.

Upon completing his move to the Gunners, Vermaelen told arsenal.com: “I’m just so happy to be joining Arsenal. This is a great club with a world class manager, high quality players and a fantastic stadium. Everything is set up for Arsenal to be very successful for years to come and I joined this club because I know Arsenal will be challenging for trophies.

“I have had a good taste of the Champions League during my time with Ajax and this is something I am looking forward to experiencing again with Arsenal,” continued the Belgian defender. “I’m also looking forward to playing in the English Premier League, which for me, is the best league in the world. Also, I just want to assure the Arsenal fans that I will give everything for this Club and I hope we can enjoy winning some trophies together next season.”

Speaking of Arsenal defenders and transfer talk, both Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have been rumored to be among Real Madrid’s transfer targets this summers, yet each has made efforts to quash the links.

While Clichy spoke of his commitment to Arsenal earlier this week, Sagna responsed yesterday to stories in the French press linking him with a move to Spain, telling arsenal.com that “I have seen the quotes attributed to me in the French media today and I just want to put the record straight. These comments are not accurate and I’m not aware of any speculation linking me to another club. I am 100 percent committed to Arsenal.

“This is a great club and I’m proud to wear the shirt. I’m looking forward to returning for pre-season training in July and preparing for the challenges that next season will bring,” continued Sagna. “We have a great squad of players at the club and I know that we can achieve something together at Arsenal; my focus is nowhere else.”

In other news involving Arsenal players, both Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs were involved in England’s Under-21 win over Spain in its European Championship campaign in Sweden.

Gibbs played the entire match at left back, but Walcott was left out of the starting lineup by manager Stuart Pearce. He performed well when coming on the pitch in the second half, and a pacy run and cutback pass by the Arsenal winger set up England’s second goal (by James Milner). The win advances England to the semifinals of the U-21 tournament.

Pearce praised Walcott in the post-match press conference, commenting on the Theo’s attitude and influence after being dropped to the substitute’s bench for the match. The manager was also very impressed with the strong play of former Arsenal man Fabrice Muamba, calling his commanding display “absolutely unbelievable … I thought his performance was as good a performance in an England shirt in a holding midfield role as I’ve ever seen.”

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