Vermaelen: I'm ready and fit for derby with Chelsea

Injury-plagued central defender 'feels great' and wants immediate return to Premier League action
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The Independent Football

Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen insists he is ready to play regular Premier League football again despite spending two months on the sidelines.

The Belgium international has been beset with injuries and on Tuesday night made his latest return, from an Achilles problem, when he played 84 minutes of the Carling Cup fourth-round victory against Bolton, before he was forced off with a calf injury.

Fortunately it proved to be nothing more than cramp and the defender now insists he is ready to face Chelsea this weekend. "I feel great," Vermaelen said. "I trained [on Monday] with the team and I felt good straight away so I felt confident.

"I don't believe in [needing games to regain sharpness]. If I come back from injury after a long time I don't believe in coming back and getting rhythm. I think it is just in your head and a mental thing – if you are a football player you have to be there straight away. That's why I wanted to play and I think it's good. It was a good game for us, we fought hard and it was a deserved win for us I think. I felt fresh, I'm OK and am available for Saturday."

Vermaelen and his team-mates progressed to the quarter-finals with a 2-1 win against Bolton courtesy of goals from Andrei Arshavin and Park Chu-young. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger was quick to praise the latter and believes the summer signing from Monaco can now cut it in the top flight. "I am very pleased with his performance," he said. "Park had a very, very good game. He has shown intelligence in his link play with others. The quality of his movement was exceptional and his finishing is absolutely fantastic. He has shown he is a very, very good player.

"He is ready to play in league games. Compared to the player that played in the first league game, where he was a bit inhibited, [on Tuesday night] I felt he played with freedom and has shown what a good player he is."

Park's goal proved the difference in north London as the home side withstood a barrage of late pressure. Ricardo Gardner admitted it was frustrating to come away with nothing, but insisted there were positives.

"I think we were unlucky to come away with a defeat given the way we performed," he told the Bolton club website. "We just ran out of time in the end. We created more chances than Arsenal, and to do that at the Emirates Stadium really says something about the spirit and character of the team. Nobody likes losing.

"We've got so many positives to take from the game, we've just got to keep believing in ourselves looking ahead to the game against Swansea City. Hopefully we can carry a bit of momentum into our next game and with God on our side we can pick up three points."