By Chris Harris

Thomas Vermaelen knows all about the qualities of Zlatan Ibrahimovic - because he remembers him from his Ajax days.

The Belgian made his debut for the Dutch giants early in 2004 and his time there overlapped with the Swedish striker, who left for Juventus later that year.

Vermaelen and Ibrahimovic will share a pitch once more when AC Milan host Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday and the centre back knows what to expect.

"I played with him a lot of times when I was at Ajax," said Vermaelen. "When I was playing regularly he had left already, but I had a lot of sessions with him when I was a young player.

"I know his qualities, like everybody does. I played against him a few times, like when he was at Barcelona, so I know he is a strong and technical player, one of their main players. It is up to us as defenders to keep him quiet tomorrow."

Wenger rated Ibrahimovic so highly that he welcomed him to the Arsenal training ground before the Swede went to Ajax in 2001. And the Frenchman is still a fan now.

"He is a great player for two reasons - he can score goals and give assists," said Wenger. "For me all the great strikers have this combination very well, and he is not only a goalscorer because he can provide as well.

"He is a guy who has fantastic body strength which he uses very well so he is difficult to play against, he protects the ball well with his back to goal and can use the players around him to support him.

"If you say he is criticised in Italy, I say you are a bit harsh in Italy."

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14 Feb 2012