Having missed virtually the entire 2010/11 season due to injury, Thomas Vermaelen could be forgiven for wondering when his luck would turn after picking up another problem in the early stages of the campaign.
After two months on the sidelines, the Belgian international returned to action at the end of October and quickly showed the Arsenal fans what they had been missing.
In little more than a month, the centre back had etched his name on the scoresheet three times, including a vital late strike against Fulham to rescue a point, having earlier scored an own goal.
But the Gunners’ injury crisis, which saw all four regular full backs ruled out through injury, meant the versatile Vermaelen had to shift across to left back for an extended period. It is not his favoured position but the Belgian continued to deliver a number of highly-committed performances.
The 26-year-old was able to return to the centre of defence by mid-February and within weeks he scored a vital last-gasp winner against Newcastle before claiming the only goal of the game at Everton in the next match. His experience and physical presence proved invaluable during the tense closing stages of the season, helping Arsenal to seal third place.
"You can see that if we fight hard then we have a lot of qualities. Milan are top of Serie A and we beat them 3-0 at home, so that is not bad. I believe in this team. We have been missing a lot of players throughout the whole season through all sorts of injuries, so if we can keep the team fit you can see what we are capable of. I am really confident that we can do something in the following years.”
With Arsenal locked at 1-1 with Newcastle and laying siege to the visitors’ goal, one man was not prepared to settle for a point. Alan Pardew’s side had defended for their lives throughout a one-sided second half but, with seconds left on the clock, Vermaelen charged forward and bundled home Theo Walcott’s cross. It was a moment that embodies everything about the Belgian’s commitment to the cause.
Thomas celebrates his late winning goal against Newcastle