Vermaelen: We can beat anybody
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen insists his side can still challenge the top sides in their Premier League and claims he was always confident a revamped Gunners line-up would prove their worth this season.
Despite Vermaelen's glowing assessment of Arsenal's progress, the Gunners have two points less than they had at the same stage of last season and are nine points behind the tally they had notched after 25 games of the 2010/11 campaign.
Add to that their recent defeats against top four rivals Chelsea and Manchester City and Vermaelen's positive vibes are misplaced, yet he seems determined to present a vision that suggests his side are moving in the right direction ahead of Saturday's trip to face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
"You could see it from the start of the season that his team has a lot of potential," Vermaelen told the Arsenal website. "We have enough quality in this team to beat anybody. I think you could see that in the games we played against top teams. We didn't get the results we wanted, but I think in some parts of the games we played well.
"Sunderland away is always a tough game. I think we did well in the first game of the season at home against Sunderland (a 0-0 draw). We couldn't score but we were the better team and had the better chances."
Vermaelen's optimism has been dampened by a potential injury crisis inflicting the Arsenal defence, with his own ankle injury adding to the concerns surrounding Laurent Koscielny, who limped off during France's defeat to Germany in Paris on Wednesday night with a calf problem. Full-back Kieran Gibbs is also set to be residing in the club's treatment room throughout February.
Manager Arsene Wenger may be forced to call upon out-of-favour Sebastien Squillaci if he is without both Vermaelen and Koscielny, with an away win vital for Arsenal on Saturday if they are to cling onto the coat tails of the teams chasing down a prized top four finish in the Premier League.