Arsenal FC: Vito Mannone Reportedly Close to Being No. 1, but Should He Be?

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterSeptember 19, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02:  Vito Mannone of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and  Arsenal at Anfield on September 2, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In the second half of last season, Vito Mannone played keeper for Hull City in the English League Championship. A month into the new campaign, he's pushing for the No. 1 jersey at Arsenal.

That brings up a couple questions.

How did that happen? And maybe more importantly, should it be happening?

Mannone, a 24-year-old Italian who represented his country seven times at the U-21 level, thinks he knows the answer to the first question. He says it has everything to do with that spell in the Championship.

Here's what Mannone told the Press Association, via The Independent:

Every goalkeeper has his own path, and 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'. Nobody wants to go there really, but I found a good club, good fans and I gained experience. I played games as a number one—24 games in a row—so that's what I needed. It helped me going onto the pitch thinking: 'Okay, I can be number one now.'

There's a lot to unpack here, leaving aside the (probably unintentional) jab Mannone took at Hull. First is the issue of playing time. At Hull, Mannone played regularly, 24 straight games, as he said, and that gave him time to improve his game.

Second, playing at Hull gave Mannone confidence. Hull and Arsenal clearly are different clubs with different types of players, and the Championship is clearly inferior to the Premier League. But having a regular spot in the lineup, and succeeding there, gave Mannone confidence.

Confidence, as we all know, is vital to any footballer, including goalkeepers.

The second question is more difficult to answer, and it's much more subjective. Arsene Wenger, for one, seems to think Mannone is good enough to be Arsenal's top keeper.

Here's what Wenger said about Mannone before Arsenal's trip to Montpellier this week in the Champions League (via "Vito is very close [to being Arsenal's No. 1], and he gets another opportunity now. He has belief and he has the mental strength to deal with that."

This echoes Mannone's comments about confidence and playing time. It doesn't mention Arsenal's current starting goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny.

Szczesny, 22, missed the Montpellier match through injury. He played in Arsenal's 6-1 Premier League victory over Southampton over the weekend, but made a mistake that led to a Southampton goal.

Mannone has played mistake-free football so far this season, but last season in the Champions League, his gaffe allowed Olympiakos' David Fuster to score in a match Arsenal eventually lost 3-1.

Mannone served as a replacement for Lukasz Fabianski that night, but at the start of the 2012-13 season, he appears to have surpassed Fabianski as Arsenal's second-choice keeper.

Whether he can or can't supplant Szczesny too will be an interesting subplot this season.