Thomas Vermaelen is delighted to see Vito Mannone flourishing at Sunderland.

The Italian goalkeeper spent seven years at Arsenal, before making the move to the Stadium of Light last summer.

Since then he has established himself as first choice for Gus Poyet’s side, and is sure to get a warm reception when he returns to Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

He was their hero in the League Cup penalty shoot-out win at Manchester United and I think the Arsenal fans enjoyed that!

Thomas Vermaelen

“Vito has done really well since he went to Sunderland and I'm glad for him,” Vermaelen told the official matchday programme.

“When I came here he was in the first-team squad so I know him well. He's a nice guy, he was always friendly, he likes a joke and it's heartening to see him go on and make his name.

“He was their hero in the League Cup penalty shoot-out win at Manchester United and I think the Arsenal fans enjoyed that!”

Vermaelen has been impressed with Sunderland’s resurgence in recent months and accepts that Arsenal face a tough test this weekend.

“I've heard that Sunderland would be 10th if the league had started when Gus Poyet took over and it's clear they have made a big improvement since he was appointed manager,” he said.

Matchday Programme

Read Thomas' full captain's notes in the Sunderland programme

“I have watched them on television so I know their players and Adam Johnson has impressed me - he can make the difference for them. They are strong in midfield too, they love to work hard and they will close us down and make it difficult."

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 21 Feb 2014