September 20, 2012
Morning all and a happy Spursday to each and every one of you.
With the first round of Champions League games now out of the way we get to see our scrappy win against the French champions in slightly better context. Our opponents on Sunday, Man City, lost away to Real Madrid, Chelsea only drew despite being 2-0 up at home to Juventus and last night I watched Man United somehow scrape by a Galatasaray side who hit the post twice and were denied three pretty convincing looking penalty shouts.
I don’t know what sort of magical chalk they use to paint on those penalty areas at Old Trafford but I wish we could track down the supplier and use a bit of it at the Emirates.
Anyway, the point is it’s a good start and it’s important to remember that we achieved it without our regular number one between the sticks. Or did we? Vito Mannone has been chatting to the press and seems to be under the impression that things may be shifting on that front:
I had two clean sheets in the first two games I played and before the Southampton game the boss talked to me and for the first time I felt he understood I was ready to be No.1.
As he said, I am really close to the shirt. At the minute I hope after this result, something’s changed.
It’s a bit odd that what Wenger said to him before the Southampton game convinced him he was ready to be number one when presumably what Wenger said to him before the Southampton game was ‘Err, Vito? I’m dropping you for the Southampton game because Wojciech is fit again.’
If anything has pushed Vito closer to the number one spot it’s what Szczesny did during that Southampton game and to Mannone’s credit he came back in for the Montpellier tie and did well for himself. Well, he didn’t do anything particularly badly. I mean I’m struggling really to remember him doing much of anything but then that’s usually a good sign where goalkeepers are concerned, right?
I suppose my reticence to accept Mannone as a viable option for first choice is partly due to all too clear memories of clangers past and partly due to never really having seen him play what I would call an exceptional game. I know he had that wonder match against Fulham a few years back but that was one of the rare games in this internet age that I managed to miss entirely so I don’t have that imprint on my psyche.
However he did well on loan at Hull last year by all accounts, something that he’s been keen to talk up:
To be honest, every goalkeeper has his own path. I had mine.
I had bad times and I just rolled up my sleeves and worked hard. Then, I thought, ‘Let’s go to Hull.’
That might be my favourite footballer quote of the year so far. It’s like the prelude to a brilliant action montage in a gangster flick. ‘What are we gonna do, boss?’ ‘I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do…Let’s go to Hull’.
Presumably he was pretty excited about the prospect of that particular trip then? Or…maybe not so much:
Nobody wants to go there really
But I found myself really well. I found a good club, good fans and I gained experience.
I played games as a No.1 – 24 in a row – so that’s what I needed. It helped me going onto the pitch thinking, ‘OK, I can be a No.1 now.’
I learned how to be a No.1, really. When you play games in a row and you have games every three days, it is a big challenge because you need to recover well and prepare for the next one again.
If, unlike me, you can learn not to snigger every time somebody describes themselves as a ‘number one’ it’s encouraging to hear Vito’s self-belief and conviction that he’s overcome some of his early issues and turned himself into a keeper good enough to play week in week out for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
More than any other position on the pitch, goalkeepers need that confidence and if he is going to challenge Wojciech this season that’s going to be essential.
Personally I’m yet to be convinced that he has it in him but I’d be happy to be proved wrong. I think I’d be happier still if Szczesny shook off his ankle problem, came back into the side and showed all the doubters that his is just a minor period of poor form and that he’s ready to fulfil all the potential that I’m convinced he has.
But maybe that’s just because the prospect of a season long battle for the goalkeeping jersey depresses me slightly. Goalkeeping battles tend to focus on ‘who made the most mistakes and when’ and can often end with one or both of the candidates sitting in a reserve team somewhere, their once promising career in tatters.
Apart from anything else I want to remember this season for what was going on at the other end of the pitch. The sooner all questions over who should be between the sticks are answered the better.
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