Thomas Vermaelen encouraged by Arsenal display


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The Independent Football

Thomas Vermaelen is certain that Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League if they can keep repeating the kind of display that saw them rip apart AC Milan last night.

Goals from Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and captain Robin van Persie gave the Gunners a resounding 3-0 lead against the seven-time European champions, but they were unable to grab the fourth goal that would have taken the tie to extra-time and they bowed out of the competition.

It was always going to take something special for Arsene Wenger's men to bounce back from their 4-0 capitulation in the San Siro three weeks ago, but the Gunners squad are now full of confidence heading in to the last quarter of the season.

Since that hammering in Italy, Arsenal have thrashed Tottenham and beaten Liverpool to move in to fourth in the Barclays Premier League - three points ahead of Chelsea.

Arsenal have suffered from woeful inconsistency all season but Vermaelen is convinced that his team-mates are now producing the kind of performances that show they deserve to be in the Champions League next term.

"If we can play like (we did last night), there is no way that we will not be in the top four," the Belgian said.

"That performance will give us a boost now.

"We are out of the Champions League but we need to take the great feeling out of this game.

"It's really important that we qualify for the Champions League.

"I think Arsenal are a team that belongs in the Champions League.

"We have the quality to do it, that showed in the second leg."

Arsenal cruised through their group stage but came unstuck in the first leg of the last-16 tie, collapsing to a 4-0 defeat which Wenger labelled "shocking".

Vermaelen admits the Gunners must improve their performances in the knockout stages next year if they qualify for the competition again.

"We have learned that we have to do better in the away games. We were not ourselves in Milan. It was not Arsenal," he said.

"The way we played in the second leg was Arsenal. We should be more consistent over two legs next year."

No team in the Champions League era has overturned a four-goal deficit in the knockout stages, but Arsenal made light work of the huge task ahead of them, racing into a 3-0 lead by half-time against the Serie A leaders before running out of energy in the second period.

Right-back Bacary Sagna admitted the team's performance in the opening period was the best he has seen.

He said: "I honestly can't remember us playing that well in a first half before.

"We played without any pressure. We had nothing to lose. We could only score goals but it was not enough.

"It is disappointing to go out but it will give us some momentum going in to the game against Newcastle (on Monday)."