Arsène Wenger admits that it is always a “difficult decision” to leave Thomas Vermaelen out of his starting XI.

The Arsenal captain has only made six appearances this season due to the outstanding form of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

Wenger sympathises with the Belgium international’s predicament but says Vermaelen has handled the situation with real class.

“Yes [it is tough to leave him out] because of his quality, his attitude and his influence at the club,” said Wenger.

“It is a difficult decision because he is a top-class player. He certainly suffers but he handles it with great dignity and great professionalism.”

There has been speculation that Vermaelen could leave the Club in January, but Wenger insists this is not on the agenda.

“No - if he wants to do that he will come and see me, which he has not done,” he said.

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Rob Kelly 3 Dec 2013