sport

Wenger drops Vermaelen hint

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has given his strongest indication yet that Thomas Vermaelen could leave to join Manchester United.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of Sunday's Community Shield with Manchester City at Wembley, Wenger admitted there had been interest in his captain but refused to reveal who had been in touch, although he did confirm United \"could be in the group\".

Belgium international Vermaelen has been linked with a move to Old Trafford as manager Louis van Gaal looks to add experience to his squad, with Rio Ferdinand, Nemandja Vidic and Patrice Evra all having left United over the summer.

\"It could happen. I have said that since the start of pre-season,\" Wenger said when asked about the prospect of Vermaelen leaving the Emirates Stadium.

\"Vermaelen could leave us because he needs to play now. We're in a position where it's difficult to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity.

\"We have sat down with Thomas and talked about his future.\"

Wenger reiterated that the club's contingent of Germany players involved in their country's World Cup success would miss the start of the season.

Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski will all be given the chance to rest having featured in Brazil over the summer.

\"They will be back on Monday. You can have the choice to bring them back quickly and then lose them again (injured) in October, or you give them much-needed rest to build them up again,\" added Wenger.

But Wenger dismissed speculation he could make a bid for their compatriot, Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira.

\"I don't know who has put him on the market. Is it his agent or somebody else, I don't know,\" he said.

\"We were never close to signing him. Jack Wilshere has come back fit and we have quite a few box-to-box midfielders.\"

Wenger also confirmed Theo Walcott will miss the start of the new campaign, with the England player due to return at the end of August.

"He will come back into the group on August 31 - he is doing well but he's not ready yet,\" added Wenger.

As for Sunday's game with Manchester City, Wenger feels it could give an indication of how far the two teams have developed over the summer.

\"It will be a good test against Manchester City because they are an interesting opponent,\" said the Frenchman.

\"There were four teams who were in the (title) race last year and there could be five or six this season."

Watch Arsenal take on Crystal Palace in their opening game of the new season. Coverage begins at 4:45pm on Sky Sports 1 on 16 August.