Vermaelen urges Arsenal to tighten up

Thomas Vermaelen believes Arsenal must stop giving away stupid goals if they are to maintain their Barclays Premier League title challenge.

The Gunners missed the chance to close right up on leaders Chelsea, whose match was postponed, when they were held to a 2-2 draw by an impressive Everton side at a snowy Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Indeed, but for a stoppage-time equaliser from substitute Tomas Rosicky, it would have been the visitors who were celebrating three hard-earned points.

Arsenal were exposed at the back when Leon Osman made the most of a free run in the six-yard box to head home Landon Donovan's corner, while the hosts were then caught on the break with eight minutes left by Steven Pienaar.

Vermaelen feels such lapses in concentration could ultimately prove costly for Arsene Wenger's men, now three points off the pace, but having played the same number of games.

"We are still there [in the title race]," he said to BBC Sport.

"We remain in the top three and we have to be confident in our next few games."

Vermaelen added: "The [bad weather] is not to blame because the pitch was very good.

"We are disappointed because we were controlling and dictating the second half.

"Okay, we were not so good in the first half, we could not play our game and we conceded two stupid goals."

Arsenal are waiting on news of Denilson's injury, after the midfielder - just returned from a back problem - fell to the ground during the closing stages and had to be carried off.

Wenger described the situation as "mysterious", but the 21-year-old was walking freely after the match and remained hopeful of being fit in time to face Bolton on Sunday.

Captain Cesc Fabregas is expected to be available again following a hamstring problem for the visit to the Reebok Stadium, which will be the first match in charge for new Bolton manager Owen Coyle.

With Alex Song away at the African Nations Cup, some of the younger Arsenal players have a chance to stake their claim.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey was below his recent impressive form against Everton, while Spain youth international Fran Merida was a late replacement for Denilson.

It was the 19-year-old's sixth appearance of the campaign, but as yet he has not made a start in the Premier League.

Merida is out of contract at the end of the season and Wenger revealed his concern a long-term deal for the former Barcelona trainee has not yet been signed.

Reports in Spain suggest Atletico Madrid are ready to make a move, but Merida - free to pen a pre-contract agreement elsewhere - insists he is only in negotiations with the Gunners.

However, uncertainty over first-team chances may hold the key to a decision.

"At the moment I am in talks with the boss. I told him I needed a bit of time," said Merida, who spent four months on loan at Real Sociedad in 2008.

"The first thing in my mind is definitely to stay here, but I have to look at a few things and we will see how things progress.

"My agent and I are only talking to Arsenal at the moment, though, and nobody else - I want to see how my situation looks here and then I will decide what to do."

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