Arsene Wenger says that Thomas Vermaelen’s recent below-par peformances may be because of pressure he feels as captain, but has backed the player to come through it and provide more defensive stability to the team.
The Belgian hasn’t yet found his best form since taking over the armband and a number of individual errors have proved costly, not least against Manchester United last weekend when he provided a lovely assist for Robin van Persie.
However, Wenger says that Vermaelen has the character and ability to react and become the figurehead he wants him to be.
“You put more pressure on yourself when you are the captain,” he said. “You want to be the best player in the team. You cannot be a defender and not make a mistake. But if you make one then maybe you put a bit more pressure on yourself then because you think I am the captain and I cannot afford that.
“He is a guy who is completely involved in the game, he breathes his football from morning until night. He thinks about it and wants to do well. If he deserves to play, I play him. Are you captain or not, I think he deserves to play. He can help our stability at the back, that is important.
“The game at Schalke we wanted to win but we could not afford to lose it. We made at least the second part of the contract and overall it was important for him to be stable defensively.
“Physically he is in outstanding shape. On Tuesday he was quite outstanding. I think what has happened to him in recent weeks has affected his confidence. Overall physically he has no problem.”
And Vermaelen himself is keen to help get things back on track, starting with Fulham today.
“It’s a big one for us,” he told the official matchday programme, “and three points will be very imporant. It’s still quite early in the season and while a defeat means you can drop in the table quite noticeably, a wins puts you right back in there.
“What happens today will be down to us and we’ll be doing everything we can to get the victory.”
The Arsenal match-day programme is available to download on iPad and it’s quite excellent – click here for details.