Arsene Wenger admits Thomas Vermaelen is close to leaving Arsenal - and Manchester United have bid for the Belgian centre-back

Manchester United among "a group" to have bid for Vermaelen

Arsene Wenger admitted today that club captain Thomas Vermaelen is close to leaving Arsenal this week having attracted a number of bids, including from Manchester United.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield game against Manchester City, Wenger admitted that the Belgium international, valued at around £15m, has been the subject of a bid from United. Asked directly whether United had made an offer, Wenger said: “I think they could be in a group”.

On Vermaelen leaving, Wenger said: “Look, it could happen. I've said since the start of pre-season that Thomas could leave us because he needs to play now. He had an outstanding attitude and behaviour but he's in a position where it's difficult to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity.”

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The Arsenal manager said that he would not be rushed on appointing a new captain to replace Vermaelen, 28, should he leave. Barcelona are also interested in the player. Wenger said that he believed Calum Chambers, signed from Southampton, could offer cover at centre-back as well. He did not rule out further signings.

“It could happen, yes. We have still three and a half weeks before the transfer market is closed and we are open to it. But it has to be a player who can strengthen our squad because let's not forget that Joel Campbell has come back plus the addition of Mathieu Debuchy, Chambers and [Alexis] Sanchez who have joined us.

“We have already bought four players, we have not lost players until now so we have a big squad at the moment.”

Wenger’s side face Manchester City on Sunday. He has already asked whether the deal to bring Frank Lampard on loan from MLS franchise New York City was a way of circumnavigating financial fair play rules. Lampard could make his City debut on Sunday.Vermaelen.jpg

“I don’t need to describe you Frank Lampard; he is quality,” Wenger said. “It was just a surprise that he went to Man City because he went to New York in fact. And the shortest way to travel to Manchester is not to go to New York first. If you look at the map there is a shorter way.”

Wenger envisages that Theo Walcott will not be fit in time for England’s friendly against Norway at the start of September and the European championship qualifier in Switzerland that follows it.

The England international, who sustained a cruciate knee ligament injury in January, is expected to train with the first team again at the end of this month.

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