Arsene Wenger is confident Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen will still be at the Emirates Stadium when the January transfer window closes.
Vermaelen has made just six appearances for the Premier League leaders this season, with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker the preferred centre-back partnership.
Wenger, who has denied reports linking him with moves for strikers Alvaro Morata and Alexandre Pato, is impressed by the way the Belgium defender has dealt with his lack of opportunities.
“It’s tough to leave Vermaelen out because of his quality, his attitude and his influence at the club,” the Frenchman said.
“It’s a difficult decision to make because he is a top-class player.
“He certainly suffers but he handles it with great dignity and great professionalism.
“I’m not concerned that he might move in January because if he wants to do that he will come and see me, which he has not done.”
Arsenal are hoping to extend their four-point lead at the summit of the Premier League when they host Hull tonight.
Bookmakers predict a three-way tussle for the title, with Manchester City, the Gunners and Chelsea competing for honours in that order.
However, Wenger believes it is unwise to dismiss the challenge from Manchester United, who are nine points below first place.
“The bookies have an opinion that you can understand because they just look at the table,” he said.
“But I wouldn’t rule some other teams out like Man United. It’s a bit early to make any prediction.”
Instrumental in Arsenal setting the pace in the title race has been the stunning form of midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who has struck 13 goals in 21 matches.
Wenger believes his performances have justified his decision to offer Ramsey a new contract last year, despite his previous mixed form, and insists the best is yet to come.
“At the time I had no doubt. I always felt he had a good attitude, good basic qualities and will come out of that bad patch in a strong way,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t predict he would score as many goals as that but I was always confident he would make a good career.
“When you are a midfielder you want to defend well, you want to attack well and you want to give assists and score goals. That is how good you can be.
“At the moment he does all of these four things very well and he can still improve.”
Wenger is puzzled by Hull owner Assem Allam’s attempt to rename his club ‘Hull Tigers’.
“I don’t think why it should happen and I don’t know exactly what is behind the thinking at Hull. I don’t understand it,” said the Frenchman.
Hull manager Steve Bruce offered a stirring defence of Allam but remains desperate for the unseemly row over the club’s name to go away.
Bruce said: “We can’t let it be a distraction and to be fair I’m fed up talking about it already; I think that goes for most of us. The only thing I would say in defence of the chairman is some people don’t realise he’s pumped millions into a hospital here (in Hull) for cancer research. He’s also paid £600,000 to buy a scanning machine for that hospital.
“He’s only got best interests of the club at heart. I have to tell that to all the supporters.
“It’s a shame to be talking about these things because all the good work he has done is being soured by this name change.
“But there has to be a resolution and a way forward from it because it can only escalate and get worse.”
That Bruce was forced once again to turn his attentions to the off-field unrest must have been a significant frustration after seeing off high-flying Liverpool at the weekend.
A similar result at the Emirates, while even tougher to achieve, would surely be impossible to bump down the agenda but Bruce is under no illusions about the challenge that awaits his squad.
“Absolutely they can win the league,” he said of the Gunners.
“We’re a third of the way through so why can’t they? They’ll be like anybody else, hoping their big players stay fit, but when you look at their squad they’re a match for anybody.”
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