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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits it has been difficult to leave club captain Thomas Vermaelen out of the starting line-up.
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The Belgian's future at the club is uncertain as he has been reduced to being a substitute for the Gunners, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny forming a solid partnership in defence.
Vermaelen previously revealed he would stay at the Emirates and attempt to win his place back in the team, but has since then refused to comment on speculation about his future.
And Wenger, speaking to the press ahead of Arsenal's clash against Hull on Wednesday night, says the decision to not select him has not been an easy one.
"It's difficult to leave out Vermaelen, but he handles it with dignity. He is a top-class player," Wenger said.
Arsenal go into the Premier League clash at the Emirates with a four-point cushion over Chelsea, but the manager remains coy on his side's chances of lifting the title for the first time since 2004.
"It's a bit early to make a prediction on the title. If we can maintain our concentration, we have a chance," he said. "What is important is to be at our best in the next game, I don't see beyond that."