Vermaelen: Gunners in it to win it
Arsene Wenger's men are now the closest challengers to Premier League leaders Chelsea, five points behind but with a game in hand, following their 4-1 win at Wolves and Manchester United's defeat at Stamford Bridge. When domestic action resumes following the international break, all eyes will turn to their showdown with the Blues at the Emirates Stadium on November 29. Arsenal have recovered strongly from their successive defeats by both Manchester clubs, embarking upon an unbeaten run of 13 matches in all competitions and now having scored 36 goals in 11 league games. Belgian defender Vermaelen believes Wenger's young side have laid down a real marker for the rest of the campaign as they seek to end a five-year trophy drought. "If we look at the rankings, we are second and it is a message to other teams that we are involved in the race to be champions," Vermaelen told Arsenal TV Online. "It is good that we have had a good series of games, it is important to continue and stay focused on every game because there are a lot of important games." Wenger's side certainly appear to be better equipped to mount a sustained assault on the title this year, having finished fourth and some 18 points behind champions United in May. Cesc Fabregas - who took his tally to nine with another well-executed goal at Wolves - has grown into his role as club captain. The Spain international, 22, maintains the whole squad has shown the troubles of this period during last season, when William Gallas was stripped of the skipper's armband after publicly questioning the character of Wenger's youngsters, are now fully behind them. "The issue with William is gone for us," Fabregas said. "We don't think about it any more and are happy with the way things are going at the moment. "The dressing room has always been really together and kept believing. "Even if we did not win anything last year, we were really close and in all the competitions right until the end, so the mood in the dressing room is always really positive." Fabregas paid tribute to the way the rest of the players helped him develop his leadership style. "The captaincy hasn't changed me at all," he said. "My team-mates have done a great job for me as well. They showed me they believe and help me with everything. "There has never been any trouble, so I am very happy with how things are going." Nearly all of Arsenal's first-team squad will be away during the international break. Wenger hopes Brazilian midfielder Denilson could be in contention by the time the squad come back to London Colney ahead of the trip to Sunderland on November 21, with England forward Theo Walcott possibly ahead of the Chelsea game. The Gunners boss is cautiously optimistic for the challenges ahead. "Something that is very important is that we have built the team together for a few years," Wenger said. "Players arrived at the age of 16 and so I enjoy it more because you are not allowed to do that any more in the modern game. "That is why I am really happy when we play as a real team."
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