Mannone 'ready' to be Arsenal's first choice

The Italian goalkeeper is determined to make the most of the opportunity given to him by Wojciech Szczesny's injury after receiving backing from Gunners boss Arsene Wenger
Vito Mannone insists he is ready to be Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper after receiving the backing of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.

The Italian has filled in for the injured Wojciech Szczesny in recent weeks, keeping consecutive clean sheets, while the Pole made an error on his return to the team against Southampton.

Mannone regained his spot for Tuesday's trip to Montpellier and is determined to remain in the starting line-up.

Steve Bould says the Arsenal striker is one of the best finishers he has ever seen
"It went well again in Montpellier and I am really focused on gaining the No. 1 spot and keeping it," Mannone told reporters.

"The boss has had some nice words for me, he talked to me and he said I am ready for the No. 1. I had two clean sheets in the first two games I played [this season] and, before the Southampton game, the boss talked to me and, for the first time, I felt he understood that I was ready to be No. 1.

"I am really close to the shirt. I hope, after the result in Montpellier, that something has changed."

Mannone featured in the Champions League last season for Arsenal, but a disastrous performance against Olympiakos saw the Gunners lose 3-1 and the 24-year-old allow David Fuster's lob to beat him, attempting to kick the ball away despite being inside his penalty area.

"I know you'll find it crazy but it was a good lesson for me," Mannone said. "I have to admit that I had another mind at the time. My mentality was that I was nearly away from Arsenal, I was expected to go on loan.

"I didn't feel confident. I hadn't played for quite a while and my mind wasn't ready. I didn't help myself because I needed to be sharp and always on my toes."

The Italian did indeed leave the club after that, re-joining Hull City on loan, after also spending time in 2010-11 at the KC Stadium. Mannone became a crucial factor in the Tigers' excellent defensive record, keeping a club-record six consecutive clean sheets.

9/2 Arsenal are 9/2 to keep a clean sheet against Manchester City with Paddy Power
"Every goalkeeper has his own path," he explained. "I had bad times and I just rolled up my sleeves and worked hard. Then, I thought 'Let's go to Hull'. 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 – 23 in a row – and that's what I needed. I learned how to be a No. 1, really.

"The boss knows that I have the kind of experience now to play and I think I've showed it in my three games this season. The boss told me that if you keep doing well, you are going to be ready."

Mannone is expected to deputise once again when the Gunners face Premier Legaue champions Manchester City this weekend but insists the side are full of confidence after their recent performances, especially their 2-0 win at Liverpool before the international break.

"We were in a good state at Liverpool because we went to a big game in a big stadium and from there we really started our season," he continued. "City are champions so we have to prepare properly and dictate the game. It will be a top challenge."