Wenger backing for Mannone
Arsene Wenger feels Vito Mannone can now compete for the Arsenal goalkeeper's jersey on full-time basis - but has revealed he would have sold the Italian a year ago had anybody wanted him.
- Related Content
Mannone will again deputise for injured Poland international Wojciech Szczesny against Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, having so far kept two clean sheets out of four appearances this season.
25. Vito Mannone
The 24-year-old now has the full confidence of the Gunners boss, which is a world away from the scenario facing Mannone after a calamitous display in a Champions League game at Olympiacos last December, which then saw him farmed out on loan to Hull with an uncertain future.
However, a four-month spell of regular football, during which he kept a club record six consecutive clean sheets for the Tigers, helped rebuild Mannone's confidence to offer Szczesny some healthy competition.
"I knew he was on a low, but Mannone had one quality that made me always doubt (about selling him) and think he has chance because he always believed in himself and was always ready to show me that," Wenger said.
"When I sent him to Hull, I watched him every single game, and all the reports I had were very positive. I was quite surprised that no club went for him because I would have let him go as we have many keepers.
"But I always had him in my mind that if I can, I would give him a chance again."
While Wenger has full confidence in Mannone as Arsenal prepare to take on the Premier League leaders, when recovered from his ankle problem, Szczesny will remain first choice.
"He has still the number one shirt. Wojciech has not lost it, but there is competition. It is up to the others to win it," Wenger said.
"They need that competition, but as well confidence.
"It is a special position where if you change (goalkeepers) every time, you cannot be good.
"Do you know one goalkeeper in the world who doesn't make a mistake? It doesn't exist.
"But of course if over a period of time their standards drop, and somebody comes in, then it is different."
New full-time Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo is looking to reshape his squad, having brought in Belgian starlet Eden Hazard in a £32million deal over the summer.
Wenger feels Chelsea remain a potent threat, even if Arsenal's long-term tormentor Didier Drogba is no longer leading the attack as the Blues adopt a more technical approach.
"Maybe they have a generation (of players) who have arrived slowly at the end and they were in a position to bring in some young players and they wanted to change a little bit their style - that is obvious in their choice of players," Wenger said.
"But as well when you think about Chelsea, they had (Florent) Malouda, (Michael) Essien, (Frank) Lampard, with Drogba on top of that - physically, contact-wise that was a very impressive side.
"However, maybe now there are not the same players available on the market."