Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is sure he is once again in charge of a happy, united dressing room after Thomas Vermaelen bucked the recent trend by committing his future to the club.
Arsenal’s disappointing start to the season, with four losses in their first eight Barclays Premier League outings, comes on the back of a summer that saw star men Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri leave the Emirates after long periods of speculation.
The midfield duo were barely out of the door before the question marks moved to Robin van Persie, Fabregas’ replacement as both captain and focal point on the pitch.
At the weekend both the Dutchman and Wenger attempted to play down his failure to agree an extension to a contract which has 18 months to run, but Wenger was in desperate need of some good news to go alongside those calming words.
And on the eve of tonight’s Champions League Group F clash at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome, Belgium stopper Vermaelen provided it.
The highly-rated defender, currently out injured but a revelation since his arrival from Ajax in 2009, has penned a new deal understood to keep him in north London for another four years and Wenger took the chance to banish some of the negativity he feels has been clouding his club’s image.
“What is important is that in our environment it gives a different message,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.
“When you listen to people it looks like an exodus with everybody leaving the club but we are a happy club.
“We did not have the start of the season that we wanted but the atmosphere inside the club is very solid, very united and very positive.
“We want to turn the results round and the fact that some players extend their contract at the moment is a positive sign for us.
“We are unified and that is down to our mental strengths.”
Wenger, who travelled without the injured Kieran Gibbs (stomach muscle), is hoping tonight’s match can continue the positive feeling.
While the Premier League has delivered a handful of bitter pills already, in defeats to Liverpool, Blackburn and neighbours Tottenham – not to mention the 8-2 hammering by rivals Manchester United – European competition has so far proved a welcome relief.
The Gunners won both legs of a tough play-off with Udinese, before drawing at Borussia Dortmund and seeing off Olympiacos 2-1 at home.
OM have won both of their Group F games to date, but Wenger is encouraged by how his side have approached Champions League.
“We play with a bit more freedom away from home in Europe and there is a bit less pressure,” he said upon his arrival in Marseille.
“But in Udinese we also played with massive pressure because that was the game of the season for us. Not to win that game would have been a disaster.
“You can see since then that it was a good game (to win) because Udinese are top of the league in Italy and at the time I could feel they were a very good side.”