Vermaelen looks up to Cannavaro, who like him isn't the tallest of central defenders.
He told the Telegraph: "I know I'm not tall but, if you speak to people at Ajax they'll tell you I was the best header there. They don't care about how big I am, whenever we were defending a corner I always had to take the tallest guy.
"I'm not that tall but you have to jump so that's how I try and compensate. I never trained for it. It's just timing, I guess."
Ajax's insistence on the technical and tactical aspects of a player's training was perfect preparation for the Arsenal ethos but even having trained with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wesley Sneijder could not prepare him for Robin van Persie, Andrei Arshavin and, above all, Cesc Fábregas.
"Playing and training with so many big stars, the beginning was a bit like a dream," Vermaelen admitted. "I think Fábregas is brilliant. If you play against him in the little training games – eight against eight – it is almost impossible to win."