Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has lavished praise on returning captain Thomas Vermaelen ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash against Marseille.

The Belgium international, who missed the start of the season after aggravating a back injury, has been backed by his manager to rediscover his best form.

“He has gone through a difficult period but he is a great player, and will show that in the future now that he is completely fit and available,” Wenger was quoted as saying by the London Evening Standard. “He is fantastic, as a character and a player. Everyone is happy that he is back.

“He is naturally a left sided player, more than anybody else. His natural position is there and I like to have a central defence where you have a right-footed player and a left-footed player. That is why I always build around Thomas.”

Vermaelen lost his place in Arsenal's starting eleven last season after suffering a dip in form. Teammates Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny went on to form a fine defensive partnership during the final months of the 2012/13 campaign - but Wenger appears to have opened the door for Vermaelen to earn his place back.

Koscielny conceded his second Premier League penalty of the season against Sunderland on Saturday after another rash challenge, and the France international may soon find himself in danger of losing his place to his 27-year-old skipper.

Arsenal, who have won their last five matches in all competitions, will be hoping to secure maximum points on their trip to Marseille's Stade Veledrome this week.

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