By Chris Harris
Thomas Vermaelen can be the bedrock of Arsenal's defence for many years, according to Arsène Wenger.
The Belgian centre back signed a new contract with the Club on Tuesday to give his manager a timely boost ahead of Wednesday night's Champions League clash with Marseille.
Vermaelen arrived in north London in 2009 and enjoyed a stellar debut season before injuries restricted his appearances. The Belgian is close to returning to full training and Wenger welcomed his decision to commit his future to Arsenal.
"It is a privilege to play for Arsenal Football Club and many players understand that," said the manager.
"On our side we are happy to extend his contract because he has shown he has the quality to play for us. He is a leader as well and he is a left-footed player, you do not find many of them. It is important to find a player in his position who has a good first pass with his left foot.
"He is versatile too, you could imagine him playing in midfield or left back in an emergency."
Wenger will pick his centre-back pairing for the Marseille game from Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Johan Djourou. The manager thinks that trio - along with Vermaelen - could play at the top level for a decade.
"Thomas is a young boy as well, people forget," said Wenger. "If you take Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen, they are all 25 or 26 years old so as centre backs they have ten years in front of them.
"I believe Mertesacker had to adjust to the pace and commitment of the English game but I feel that in every game he gets stronger. Let's not forget that we missed Koscielny as well. I personally feel that the defensive frailties we had recently were more down to other departments in the team than the defenders.
"If you look at the strength in depth we have, we have a very positive future. Our centre backs are young and you look at the players who are coming through like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, everybody of course knows Ramsey, Coquelin, Frimpong. We have fantastic young players so that is good for the Club."
The full interview with Wenger is now available on Arsenal Player.Copyright 2016 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