By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger admits he is surprised by how quickly Thomas Vermaelen has settled at Arsenal.
The Belgian centre back moved from Ajax to Emirates Stadium in June and, like all foreign imports, was expected to take time before he came to terms with the hustle and bustle of English football. But Vermaelen put in a towering performance on his Premier League debut at Everton at the weekend and picked up where he left off when Arsenal faced Celtic in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Vermaelen did not get on the scoresheet this time but the Belgian defender dealt comfortably with everything Celtic threw at him and his magnificent last-ditch challenge denied Scott Brown a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the first half.
After the game, Wenger paid tribute to his big summer acquisition.
"I am surprised by him," he admitted. "Thomas had a very long preparation and we saw he had the physical strength and the mentality to cope with it. When it’s needed he comes in.
"I believe he has a good mixture of physical and technical [ability] and it’s interesting to have a left-footed player because it gives you angles for the pass that are very important to the midfielders."
Vermaelen's partnership with William Gallas has been one of the major plusses of Arsenal's early-season form. Wenger had plenty of praise for the French defender and the man who has shielded the back four at Everton and Celtic – midfielder Alex Song.
"William was fantastic," said the manager. "I believe again he played very well. He is certainly in the best form of the last two years for me.
“In the last two games Song has played extremely well too. He can win the fight, not only with physical strength but he has that sense to nick the ball from his opponent without giving away the foul. That’s a very interesting quality.”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 19 Aug 2009