Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen is ready to feature for the Gunners again after a long spell on the sidelines with a back injury.

The Belgian international missed the Gunners' pre-season tour, having aggravated a long-term problem while on international duty.

Vermaelen made his last appearance for Arsenal in May, having missed the final few games of Arsenal's crucial Premier League run-in.

But, speaking ahead of Arsenal's trip to Sunderland on Saturday, Arsene Wenger told the Evening Standard that the centre back is on the cusp of a return to action.

“Vermaelen is very close to being available and he could be in the squad tomorrow," he told the paper.

“It is more likely to be Wednesday [in the Champions League match at Marseille].”

The return of the Arsenal captain to action will be good news for Wenger, who has been forced to play Bacary Sagna alongside Per Mertesacker after Laurent Koscielny's red card in the opening game of the season against Aston Villa.

Vermaelen was dropped to the bench for the Gunners towards the end of last season, following a baffling performance in the north London against Tottenham. He also made a high-profile mistake against Manchester United - gifting the ball to Robin van Persie for him to score against his former club.

However, the 27-year-old remains a favourite with the fans, and will be looking to make amends at the Emirates Stadium this term.

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