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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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4:00 PM GMT
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Vermaelen, Szczesny going nowhere

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit back at reports that captain Thomas Vermaelen and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will be sold by the club at the end of the season.

The pair have struggled for form this season
The pair have struggled for form this season

Speculation over the future of the pair has mounted since they were dropped from the Arsenal line-up for Wednesday’s Champions League win against Bayern Munich, with Wenger admitting they are not certain of making a first-team return in Saturday’s Premier League game against Swansea.

Yet when quizzed on whether Vermaelen and Szczesny still have long-term futures at the club, the Gunners boss was quick to pour cold water on reports that they will be ushered towards the exit doors, despite their high-profile errors this season.

“Every position is up for grabs, you have to face it like that. The job of top-level competitors is to deal with that,” said Wenger, who went on to confirm that he still sees Vermaelen and Szczesny as having big roles to play in the club’s future.

“They are two outstanding players who are part of our squad,” he said. “They have played so many games until now. Their position is very important in the squad.

“Thomas Vermaelen has played many games in many positions and is a very important player in our squad. They know there might be rotation with the three centre-backs - Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker. Everybody faces the same competition and the players who come in have been on the bench for a long, long time. The last game decides the next one.

“As for Wojciech? Who gave him a chance from nowhere in the youth teams? It was me that is because I rate him, highlight and have a big respect for what he has done, but we all have ups and down physically and mentally and he has played many, many games this season. Maybe I should have rested him in the cup games but I did not do that. It is normal that you have ups and downs. He is a young goalkeeper.”

Wenger admitted he has yet to decide if he will recall Szczesny to his line-up for the trip to Swansea or whether to keep faith with Lukasz Fabianski, who did a solid job as he kept a clean sheet against Bayern on Wednesday.

“I have not made that decision and once I have made it, I will inform the players first. Fabianski had a good performance,” he said.

Wenger confirmed that Nacho Monreal will return to the starting line-up on Saturday to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs, which suggests Vermaelen is unlikely to return to the team. Wenger, though, insisted the attitude of his captain since his demotion to the bench has been exemplary.

“Thomas has a fantastic attitude,” he said. “He is a guy who is absolutely outstanding with his attitude and motivation.”

Wenger said he will travel to the Liberty Stadium without the injured quartet of Gibbs, Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski.

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