Vermaelen admits may consider leaving Arsenal

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Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen leaps for the ball during their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in London January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

LONDON (Reuters) - Central defender Thomas Vermaelen is mulling the prospect of leaving Arsenal in January to boost his chances of playing for Belgium in the World Cup finals.

Vermaelen has struggled to regain his place in the Arsenal side after returning from a back problem and appears to have slipped down the pecking order for his country, who have qualified for their first World Cup since 2002.

He was an unused substitute in Arsenal's last three matches and also failed to start in Belgium's decisive win over Croatia on Friday even with Vincent Kompany out injured.

"Yes, I have to think about that when it's necessary," Vermaelen was quoted in British newspapers about his future at the north London club.

"Of course, never playing will not be the ideal situation for me to go to the World Cup, that's for sure."

Vermaelen, who joined Arsenal from Ajax Amsterdam in 2009, was club captain last year and has made nearly 100 appearances for the club but manager Arsene Wenger has stuck with the combination of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny since Vermaelen returned to fitness.

"People ask me if I am concerned, but I don't panic," Vermaelen, who has spoken to Wenger about his situation, said.

"It's just a matter of injuries or suspensions to play again. Those things can happen in a split second and change my situation. That can happen tomorrow or next weekend.

"In that case, we will speak differently in January. I have to be ready for that. This situation is brand new for me."