Thomas Vermaelen admits he was disappointed but proud as he left the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday evening, and believes that Arsenal have shown they have the quality to qualify for the Champions League for a 15th consecutive season.
The Gunners went into their last-16 second leg encounter as rank outsiders after being thrashed by AC Milan 4-0 in the San Siro, but after a spirited fightback which saw the hosts score three first-half goals, Arsene Wenger's side hauled themselves back into contention, but finished on the wrong side of a 4-3 aggregate scoreline.
However, Vermaelen insists he is taking the positives from the performance, and remains convinced that Arsenal will be back in Europe's top-tier competition next year - especially if they can continue to replicate such scintillating displays.
"It's really important because Arsenal is a team that belongs in the Champions League," he told the club's official website. "We will try to achieve that in the next games and get into the top four.
"At the moment, after the way we played in the first half against Milan, I am really confident. [But] it's hard to be consistent in top-level football.
"The team that is the most consistent will win prizes, I believe in that. But we have to be confident that we have the quality in the team and that is what we showed against Milan."
Next up for Arsenal is a Premier League clash against Newcastle United - a team also in the European mix-up as we approach the business end of the season. The game will prove a tough test, but the Belgian defender is confident the players can return to winning ways.
"The way we played in the first half, if we can do that consistently all season I am not worried because we will be in the top four," Vermaelen added.
"Of course we are disappointed because we are out of the Champions League but we need to take the great feeling out of this game, and take that into the next game."
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