By Richard Clarke

Thomas Vermaelen is set to end his nine-month absence from the Arsenal first-team against Aston Villa this weekend.

A thigh injury to Laurent Koscielny has “opened the door” for the Belgian defender, whose last appearance for his Club came back on August 28 at Blackburn.

A week or so later, the centre back picked up a troublesome Achilles injury on international duty and eventually needed a procedure in Sweden at the start of 2011.

Vermaelen was an unused substitute last week at Stoke but, with points still required in the Premier League, Wenger needs one of his strongest characters to slot in seamlessly.

However that is not the only decision the manager has to make ahead of Sunday. Two key players - Cesc Fabregas (thigh) and Samir Nasri (hamstring) - face late fitness tests.

Elsewhere Abou Diaby (calf) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) will be out while Gael Clichy is back after missing the defeat at the Britannia Stadium.

“We have lost Laurent Koscielny with a thigh strain from Sunday against Stoke,” Wenger told TV Online.

“It opens the door for Vermaelen,” he added. “I have not completely decided yet but there is a probability he will start.

 “We have question marks against Fabregas and Nasri. They will be late decisions. During the week we lost Tomas Rosicky with a thigh strain. Diaby will be out but I believe that Clichy will be back.”

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13 May 2011