Thomas Vermaelen is adamant he is unconcerned by the chronic criticism directed at Arsenal's porous defence this season, admitting there is much he and his team-mates can improve on but insisting the lack of a regular partnership should not affect Arsène Wenger's side on the pitch.
Vermaelen featured alongside Per Mertesacker, Wenger's showpiece summer defensive signing, for the first time during Tuesday's 0-0 Champions League draw with Marseilles, a pairing many Arsenal fans assumed – and given Vermaelen's status, hoped – would be first-choice this season until injury robbed the Belgian of six weeks of his campaign.
But while Vermaelen acknowledges it was a relief to take to the field again and a useful learning exercise to play with the Germany international, he believes all of the defenders at Wenger's disposal are better than they are given credit for.
"There is always criticism and complaining about Arsenal's defence," he said. "It does not worry me at all. I am on the pitch to do my best. I am confident and don't care what people say.
"I think that the most important thing is that for the most part we win games and we have won eight from 10, drawn one. It is not only about defence, the shape of the team, the organisation, but that is something really important in the game and something that we can really improve on.
"But it is difficult to talk about a partnership, as we have four or five centre-backs in the squad and it is up to the boss who plays," he added. "We know each other's qualities and you have to cope with it every game, whoever plays. It is not an excuse that you don't play or train a lot with each other."