From Boy to Mannone

Fulham 0-1 Arsenal

One line from David Walsh’s Times match report yesterday sums up Arsenal at the moment, in many ways:

“..though they always impress you, they don’t always convince you.”

It was definitely thus yesterday; we came away with a hard-fought and hugely creditable 1-0 win, but have a rookie 21-year-old Italian keeper largely to thank.

Fulham made it hard for us, very hard, and the fact they earned nothing from an excellent performance except for plaudits was probably scant consolation indeed.

But what can you say? We didn’t play at our best, yet van Persie’s moment of sublime skill at one end, coupled with an inspired performance from Vito (mmm) Mannone at the other won the game.

We’ve now played twice as many away games as we have home ones, and though we’re hardly looking as if we can take the league by the scruff of its neck, we’re in the right place from a points perspective, it’s early days and there’s ample time to improve further.

The headlines will go to Vito Mannone though, the wobbly 21-year-old who seems about twice as good now as he did against Liege. Some improvement. He must have made four excellent saves, including one double save that included a deflection off the chin. He was so good, in fact, that Wenger was moved to admit “I believe we will give him 10 out of 10 because everything he did was right”.

He’s number three now in the goalie pecking order, but for how long? It’s too early to tell, but he had the game of his nascent career yesterday.

Still some things to iron out generally though. Bendtner’s position on the wing is one – surely he’s better in the middle – and we’ve yet to get the best out of Fabregas and Arshavin this season, (perhaps too harsh, seeing that both have been injured).

Bendtner works hard, but surely we’re better served in the long term with proper wingers on the wing – maybe Rosicky and Walcott, with Arshavin and Nasri the kinds of players who Wenger can put slightly further forward and more central. The fact they can all interchange gives us bags of options, but I’d like to see us stretching flanks and using our pace more.

But we can take plenty of positives too. A clean sheet, a win, a doughty and stubborn display and just what we needed in light of our recent away defeats.

And with Blackburn and Birmingham at home next, then the Hammers away before we come up against Liverpool, we’ve got an excellent chance to push on.

Altogether now: “You are Mannone, Vito Mannone, you make me happy, when skies are grey…”

Right, chicken cooking time.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.