Vermaelen: We showed our mettle

Vermaelen: We showed our mettle

Published Mar. 1, 2010 8:00 p.m. ET

Thomas Vermaelen maintains Arsenal showed the mental strength of champions to go on and record victory at Stoke after midfielder Aaron Ramsey suffered an horrific broken leg.

The 19-year-old Wales international has now had an operation to repair his fractured tibia and fibula following a challenge from Ryan Shawcross during the second half of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash.

Dr Khalid Baloch also performed surgery on Eduardo after the Arsenal forward's similar injury two years ago, and hopes Ramsey can be back to his best within 12 months.

For now, though, emotions continue to run high.

In the immediate aftermath, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger condemned the challenge as "horrendous and unacceptable", while also criticising Stoke's overall approach.

Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan, who comforted Ramsey as he lay on the ground awaiting the physios, was today the latest Stoke player to rally behind Shawcross, called up into the England squad for the first time ahead of the midweek friendly against Egypt.

While the dust is yet to settle on the whole debate, results elsewhere did go in Arsenal's favour as leaders Chelsea suffered a shock 4-2 home defeat by Manchester City.

The Gunners are now just three points off the pace, and appear to have a much less testing run-in over the final 10 matches of what so far has been a rollercoaster campaign.

Belgium international Vermaelen netted Arsenal's third goal during seven minutes of stoppage time, and feels the way his team-mates recovered from first falling behind to an early goal and then the shock of Ramsey's injury speaks volumes.

"It is just a matter of mentality. These are physical games and you have to be prepared mentally," the centre-back told Arsenal TV Online.

"We knew it would not be easy, the pitch was not great and it was not easy to play our own game.

"We were 1-0 down, but then were better in the duels, and won 2-1, so that is a big sign."

Vermaelen declared: "We are now closer again, and will try to win every game now - we will try to do that for Aaron.

"You have to do it for the team and the club - we have to win every game now to win the league."

Arsenal were also in contention for a first league championship since 2004 when Eduardo suffered his season-ending injury following a challenge by Birmingham defender Martin Taylor.

While the Gunners never recovered from that setback at St Andrew's, in a game from which the Blues snatched a 2-2 draw with a controversial last-minute penalty, Wenger believes the current side can produce a positive response.

"It will be tight until the end, but this group is so strong mentally and have a unity so this will give us one more reason to fight until the end and do it for him," said the Arsenal manager.

"We had some other problems two years ago, but on Saturday we had a midfield of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Song, Emmanuel Eboue. They have an average of 20 or 21. Up front, Nicklas Bendtner is 21 years old.

"At their age, to handle the game like they did is absolutely remarkable."

Wenger added: "The way I try to play the game, I believe, is the right way.

"When we don't win, I get a lot of stick because of that way, but I still prefer to continue to play like that.

"We will respect the game, the opponents and try to give pleasure to people who watch us."