Thomas Vermaelen intends to step up to another level this season after a revelatory first year in English football.

The Belgian centre back was a relative unknown when he arrived from Ajax last summer but he scored five goals in his first 11 appearances and emerged as the team's defensive fulcrum during the 2009/10 campaign.

The departures of William Gallas, Sol Campbell, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos have left Vermaelen as the senior partner at the back and he knows that the weight of expectation will put him under pressure to perform in his second season.

"Yes, that's true, and I think that's more difficult," the 24 year-old told the Official Matchday Programme.

"You have to keep performing every year. If you play for Arsenal you can never say 'I had a good year, so now I'll ease off'. That's not possible. People ask you to do better every year and I will try to do that. I hope we can perform as a team and that's the way we will achieve what we want.

"If you go to a new club, everything is new, and most of the time that makes it easier. For example if you start when you are 18 and you have your first season, that first season is always easier, and it's the same when you go to a new club.

"But it's always more difficult to stay at that level, and next year that is the challenge: not only to maintain the level but to improve upon it because it wasn't enough last season, we didn't achieve anything. We have to grow again."

This interview first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme for the 2010 Emirates Cup. You can subscribe to the Matchday Programme by calling 08700 20 20 20.

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3 Aug 2010