Vermaelen: Gunners can laugh last

The battle at the top of the Premier League was previously seen as

a two-horse race between Chelsea and Manchester United until Arsene

Wenger’s men put together four-successive wins to get within two

points of the summit, then they were tipped to crash out of Europe

this week but overturned a first-leg deficit with a 5-0 win against

Porto. “We’re been written off twice already I think,” said

Vermaelen. “We’re still in the race for both things, for the league

and the Champions League, but you have to stay focused on every

game and the next game is Hull City. You have to win every game.

“We will see at the end of the season. You have to focus every game

and we will see where we are at the end.” Arsenal’s resurgence has

been without Robin van Persie after the Holland forward damaged

ankle ligaments in November, while against Porto they were missing

the influence of skipper Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas is rated as

“50-50” by Wenger to face Hull at the KC Stadium at the weekend.

“Cesc is really important for us but we have a lot of good players

in the squad who can fill in his place,” Vermaelen said. The

emphatic 5-0 victory over Porto came courtesy of Nicklas Bendtner’s

hat-trick, three days after he missed four clear-cut chances in the

victory over Burnley. “As a striker you have to stay confident all

the time because there are some games when you don’t score and that

was the case on Saturday,” Vermaelen said. “Against Porto he

responded brilliantly. He didn’t only score three goals, he won a

lot of headers and that is important for the team. “He doesn’t

struggle with confidence and that is a good thing for a striker.

You always need a good centre-forward who scores goals for the

team, he did that against Porto and I hope he will score a lot of

goals in the future. “He is still young, He has a lot of qualities

– he’s here at Arsenal so that means he has a lot of qualities.”

Bendtner is known to be assured about his own ability – even if his

treble takes his tally to just eight for the season – and Vermaelen

saw no difference in the striker’s attitude after his last two

games. “On Saturday he was still confident and I appreciate that

because for a striker you have to be like that all the time,” said

the Belgium international. “After Porto he was no different to how

he was against Burnley, he was just happy with the three goals and

how he performed.” Victory against the Portuguese champions booked

a place in the last eight of the Champions League, with Vermaelen

adding: “I’m convinced we can win this competition.” Andrey

Arshavin, who set up three goals against Porto, does not mind who

Arsenal get in the quarter-finals. He told his official website:

“Honestly, It doesn’t matter for me who gets there. Therefore, I do

not want to make any predictions. We should play our own football

against any opponent.” Emmanuel Eboue, who scored the fourth goal

against Porto, is also determined to go one better than last season

when they reached the semi-finals. “Last year and this year is not

the same because this year we are more comfortable and I think if

we continue to play together like against Porto then why can we not

do something?” he said. Eboue was jeered by his own fans last

season but is now a cult hero and wants to end the club’s five-year

trophy drought. “I never said I wanted to move,” he said. “I have

got two more years with Arsenal and I feel very well here. I want

to win something for the club because they have helped me a lot, so

I want to win something for them. “Arsene Wenger is always with us

when we have a bad day so for me I think he is like our Daddy so we

are all happy to play for him.”