Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny says his partnership with Per Mertesacker can only get stronger after the pair shut-out Marseille on Wednesday evening.

With Thomas Vermaelen on the sidelines, the pair have been thrust together to help rebuild the Gunners' season.

Neither defender has showed utter confidence since their respective moves to Arsenal, but Koscielny says the pair can improve as a partnership, and that Mertesacker will grow into an important asset for Arsenal.

"Personally, things are getting better and better with Per," Koscielny said.

 

"He is a very experienced player, he is an international player, he knows what the very high level is about. We know that the English league is very different than the other European leagues and there is always time to adapt. Soon he will become a key player in this team."

The duo can expect a tough physical examination against Stoke City, a team Arsenal have regularly struggled against, on Sunday in the Barclays Premier League.

The physical approach of Tony Pulis' men is likely to bring the best out of Koscielny and Mertesacker, with the likes of Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters and Kenwyne Jones all for company, it could be a busy afternoon at the Emirates Stadium.

Since the Frenchman's move from Lorient in the summer of 2010, the 26-year-old has endured a difficult time trying to adapt to the pace of English football, and was credited with the mistake that led to Birmingham City snatching the Carling Cup away from Arsenal in February.

But given Vermaelen's injury problems, Koscielny has been forced to step up to the plate, and is likely to be given further opportunities as the season continues.

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