Thomas Vermaelen has pointed to flashes of form and quality demonstrated by Arsenal this season as evidence that talk of a title challenge next term is far from outlandish. The Belgium international has conceded, however, that his side have to generate more consistency if they are to compete for a first championship since 2004.
In a late season rally the club have won eight of their past nine matches, hoisting them into the Champions League qualification places. The side had endured a disrupted and disastrous start to the campaign and, just as they had threatened a recovery, three successive defeats in the new year set them back again, meaning they, unlike their rivals Tottenham Hotspur, never felt like realistic title contenders this term.
Yet, with key players restored to fitness and a settled backline offering much needed solidity, Arsène Wenger will have drawn huge encouragement from the recent victories, the last of which, on Sunday, wrecked Manchester City’s title pursuit. “In some games we have shown a lot of quality and that we can compete with everybody,” said Vermaelen. “But you have to be consistent in the league and sometimes that’s not been the case for us. But we will try to do that better next year. I’m confident we can do that.
“Defensively it’s about the organisation of the team. It’s not just about the defenders who defend, the whole shape of the team, and that’s really good at the moment so we must be really pleased with that. When everybody is fit we have a really good team and we can compete with everybody. The momentum we had, climbing the table by winning seven games in a row before losing at Queens Park Rangers, was really important so it was vital we won again, especially against City who are contenders for the title.
“We deserved it. We were dominant in the game and it was a really important result because we are in a big fight for that third place. That is so important because finishing third gives you direct qualification for the Champions League. That is very important for the club and is our main target at the moment and I know about the rivalry between us and Tottenham. I hear it every day on the streets, people asking us to finish above Tottenham at the end of the season. We look to ourselves: if we win every game, we will finish above them.”
Arsenal visit Molineux on Wednesday to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers, bottom of the table and a side on the slide after six consecutive defeats. “But, while each game is important for us at the moment, they’re all hard matches as well,” added Vermaelen. “You could see that at QPR, where we dropped points. So Wolves will be the same. We will have to be on the top of our toes and play well there.”