Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen has been describing the intense preparation that the Gunners have been putting in during pre-season, and despite some disappointing results the Belgian defender said the team felt good going into the new season.

The pre-season draws against Hangzou Greentown, Boca Juniors and New York Red Bulls were topped off by a defeat to Benfica, but the Vermaelen added that fitness was the most important thing going into Arsenal's first fixture away to Newcastle.

“We have worked hard and I feel we are ready for it because the fitness is good in the team and we feel good,” he said.

“We have had a good pre-season over the past few weeks. In pre-season, the most important thing is training hard and getting your fitness back.

“We worked really hard in Germany, as hard as we did in Austria, so that was a tough week for us to get our fitness back. I think that week was really important and we were very pleased with that.”


Vermaelen's take on things echoed his Arsenal team-mate Wojciech Szczesney, who also put a positive spin on the challenging preseason earlier in the week.

Szczesney said: “I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the results. The most important thing is fitness and showing the manager that you should be starting on August 13. I’m quite happy with the defensive side.”

Unsurprisingly, Vermaelen has been announced in Arsene Wenger's UEFA Champions League squad for the Play-Off Round against Udinese on August 16.

Arsenal's defensive line-up, whose last clean sheet was against a Malaysia XI in mid-July, will try to emulate 2006's success, the year in which the Gunners reached the finals of the competition after conceding just two goals on their way through the group and knock-out stages.

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