It is a confidence unidentifiable with the Arsenal of recent years. But there is a growing sense of optimism at the Emirates Stadium that Arsene Wenger’s side, which has been lovingly moulded by the Frenchman and ruthlessly ripped apart by others in equal measure over the past five years, is ready to go toe to toe with the Premier League’s top dogs.
Can the Gunners really challenge for the title? Young Italian goalkeeper Vito Mannone seems to think so.
“This is a club that is made for victories, it’s not a club that just wants to do well and get the third or fourth place. This club wants to win trophies and I wish that I can give my help for this team to do it.”
Mannone has been enjoying an extended run in the Arsenal first team due to the absence of both first and second choice goalkeepers, Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski, through injury. The stand-in stopper looks set to continue in the role over next few weeks after Fabianski suffered another injury setback. Szczesny remains three weeks away from returning to training.
That means Mannone will be between the sticks during a very important period for Arsenal. The Gunners have two highly winnable league matches left in October. First up is a trip to Norwich this weekend before Queens Park Rangers, who currently prop up the rest of the league, visit the Emirates Stadium. If Arsenal truly are to establish themselves as genuine title contenders, six points from those games is a must, regardless of who acts as the last line of defence.
October also still holds a European match. A victory at home to Schalke would make it nine points out of nine for Wenger and Arsenal, and one foot would surely be in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
But, in contrast, November looks a tricky month. The Gunners have to travel to Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester United, as well as host Fulham and fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur in North London and fit in two Champions League games to boot. Currently seven points behind Premier League pace setters Chelsea, the Gunners’ points tally after November concludes is likely to define whether the top clubs should take them seriously.
After the pantomime of last season’s opening months, Arsenal supporters are just happy to dream of title victories again.
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