Vermaelen considering Arsenal exit to safeguard Belgium World Cup place

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has said he will consider leaving the club if he is not playing regularly in an effort to guarantee his place in the Belgium side for next year’s World Cup, Sky Sports has reported.

Belgium have already qualified for the Brazil tournament as winners of Group A, finishing comfortably ahead of the likes of Croatia, Serbia and Wales, to reach their first World Cup since Japan and South Korea in 2002. And while Vermaelen is set to start Belgium’s final qualifier, against Wales, he is by no means assured of starting the games that have more riding on them.

The likes of Daniel van Buyten, Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany are all vying with Vermaelen to start at centre-back under coach Marc Wilmots, and when asked if he would go so far as to leave the Emirates Stadium to bolster his chances, Vermaelen admitted he could not rule it out.

I’ll have to think about that when it’s necessary,” Vermaelen said. “January is still a few months ahead. Of course, never playing will not be the ideal situation for me to go to the World Cup, that’s for sure.

A back injury meant Vermaelen was unavailable to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger at the start of the season and though the former Ajax defender is fit again, he has been unable to dislodge the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker as the Gunners have moved top of the early Premier League table. Vermaelen has played only 10 minutes of league football.

He insists however that he will not rush into a decision. “People ask me if I panic because I’m not playing a lot but I’m not,” the 27-year-old added. “I have spoken to the manager but it will remain private between us. Things can happen in a split second and change my situation. That can happen tomorrow or next weekend. In that case, we will speak differently in January. I have to be ready for that.

Vermaelen moved to Arsenal in 2009, having come through the youth set-up at Ajax. He made nearly 150 appearances for the Amsterdam club, and despite an injury-hit spell with the Gunners has featured more than 130 times under Wenger, scoring 15 goals.

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