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Nov 30, 2012

Arsenal's next 12 crucial, Wenger says

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels the next 12 matches will determine whether his side can force its way back into contention for a shot at the Premier League title.

The Gunners head into Saturday's clash against Swansea in seventh place, 12 points behind leader Manchester United.

However, with four of Arsenal's upcoming December league games set to be played at home, Wenger is confident his team can use that advantage to catapult itself up the table.

"We will come back. Now we have six games, four at home, and if we do well in this block I think we have a chance to come back, but of course it is vital for us to do well in these games," Wenger told Arsenal Player. "At the moment the two Manchester sides (are top). They have not been spectacular, but efficient, and they have made the maximum of the chances they have created.

"For example, Manchester United have already lost three games and have lost in the Champions League as well. It is exactly what we have done, but they took more points and had less draws than we did. That has been the difference until now."

With Laurent Koscielny set for around a month on the sidelines after limping off at Goodison Park with a thigh strain, captain Thomas Vermaelen looks set to return to the centre of defense against the Swans.

The Belgian has been utilized on the left in recent weeks but produced a solid display helping shackle countryman Marouane Fellaini and track Croatia frontman Nikica Jelavic.

"It was certainly his best game since the start of the season in this position," said Wenger. "That will boost his confidence and hopefully get out of his mind what happened before when he was not completely confident. He was physically sharp, confident, calm and important for us."

Swansea comes to the Emirates on the back of its midweek win over in-form West Brom.

Michael Laudrup's men are only a point and a place below the Gunners and Wenger maintains there can be no thoughts of complacency.

Wenger said Swansea has "bought intelligently and of course that gives them the basis they had last year, and the addition of the players they have brought in. It makes them dangerous. Of course (former manager Brendan Rodgers) has made the basis of what the club is today and Michael Laudrup has added some players he knew from Spain who are very good additions.

"They have Michu, Pablo Hernandez, (Jonathan) de Guzman, these players and keeping Britton, Rangel and the players at the back. Swansea are a dangerous side throughout, and having a good season. They are a complete unit, very creative, very technical and very mobile."

Arsenal will check on the fitness of right-back Bacary Sagna, who has a foot injury, while forward Theo Walcott, who fired the Gunners ahead inside a minute at Everton, will also be assessed after taking a knock to his ankle.

Hernandez, one of the architects of the midweek victory, will not face the Gunners because of a thigh injury.

"We don't know yet how bad it is, it is a small muscle injury but for Saturday it will be impossible," Laudrup said. "If he could play against Norwich that would be a good sign. It depends on how it heals. If we are lucky he could be back against Norwich, if it is a bit more serious it could be maybe two or three weeks."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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