Vermaelen expects Gunners to fire against Swansea

LONDON (AFP) - Thomas Vermaelen has backed his Arsenal team-mates to respond positively after a defeat by Premier League champions Manchester City and overcome Swansea City in their FA Cup third round replay.

Michael Laudrup's Swansea side will visit the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday hoping to repeat their December league victory against the Gunners and set up a fourth round trip to face Championship club Brighton.

They will arrive in north London to play an Arsenal side still smarting from a 2-0 defeat by City that left Arsene Wenger's side sixth place in the table and a huge 21 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

Wenger made no attempt to disguise his frustration at a performance he described as "timid" although the French manager did commend his side's spirit after being forced to play 80 minutes with 10 men after Laurent Koscielny was sent off.

Koscielny's red card means the Frenchman will miss the cup clash, with Per Mertesacker stepping in to partner club captain Vermaelen at the heart of Arsenal's defence.

With the title already beyond them and Bayern Munich looming in the first knockout round of the Champions League, the FA Cup remains Arsenal's best hope of success this season and so ending a now eight-year wait for a major trophy since they last lifted the Cup.

And Vermaelen is convinced the prospect of such an important game will bring out the best in Wenger's team.

"There are a lot of big, big fixtures coming up against good teams," said the Belgium international.

"Big games. And this (match against City) was the first one, we wanted to have a good start and that is why it is more disappointing we could not get a good result.

"But against Swansea, I am confident the group will respond on this defeat, and I'm confident we can get a result on Wednesday." Right back Bacary Sagna admitted it was important the team move on quickly from the City loss.

"We can't let our heads go down. First of all we need to rest because we play in two days. After that we just need to keep pushing because we have many games to come back and we are not far from third position, so we have to keep the heads up." Abou Diaby returned at the weekend for his first appearance in four months and will retain his place with Mikel Arteta now sidelined for three weeks.

Swansea will arrive in good form, unbeaten in seven games in a run that stretches back to mid-December and includes the 2-0 victory at Chelsea in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.

The Welsh side's progress this season has not gone unnoticed with Spain coach Vicente del Bosque in the stands at Everton last weekend to check on the team's Spanish players including Michu and Chico Flores, while Laudrup has been touted as a possible successor to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Swansea keeper Michel Vorm believes Del Bosque will have been impressed by Flores and reckons his team-mate should be handed a chance in Spain's forthcoming friendly with Uruguay.

"The Spanish team has plenty of options, but I think Chico deserves a chance. He has played in La Liga and in Italy, and he is proving very consistent for us in the Premier League.

"Chico is a defender that will not only win a lot of headers in key positions and make important tackles, he is also very comfortable with the ball.

"Those skills are very important to a team like Spain, and I think their manager would have been impressed by Chico's performance," Vorm added.

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