By Chris Harris

Thomas Vermaelen believes the work he has done off the pitch this season will make him a better defender when he finally returns to action.

The Belgian centre back has spent the last seven months on the sidelines after suffering an ongoing tendon injury and, although he is making tentative steps towards a first-team comeback, Vermaelen is not expected to feature again this term.

The 25-year-old has missed the chance to test himself against the best at home and in Europe but he has taken the opportunity to examine his game and address his weaknesses.

"I’ve learned a lot [while I've been out]," said Vermaelen. "Mentally for sure, but I also had the time to work on some of my weaknesses. Things you do not have time for when you play a lot of games.

"I saw Chelsea, Man United, Tottenham, Barcelona passing me by - top games for sure. And that’s frustrating: you want to be on the pitch. In the stands, especially against Barcelona, ​​you feel more tension than on the field. I was quite nervous, I noticed, even during the return match I watched on TV. I wanted so badly that we went through.

"But on the other hand, on television and in the stands you have a better view of the game. You can learn from the positioning of other defenders, while watching them. And that’s what I did.”

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25 Mar 2011