• Premier League

Wenger: Mannone 'very close' to becoming No. 1

ESPN staff
September 17, 2012
Vito Mannone has two Premier League clean sheets this season © Getty Images

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has given goalkeeper Vito Mannone a vote of confidence ahead of the Montpellier clash on Tuesday, revealing the Italian is close to becoming the Gunners' No. 1.

Mannone will start for Arsenal in France after Wojciech Szczesny was ruled out of the match with an ankle problem.

Szczesny's injury gives Mannone the chance to build on his impressive start to the season, which has seen him keep two Premier League clean sheets.

And Wenger feels Mannone could be on the brink of ripping the No. 1 jersey from Poland international Szczesny.

"Vito is very close [to being Arsenal's No. 1], and he gets another opportunity now," said Wenger. "He has belief and he has the mental strength to deal with that."

Wenger concedes he is clueless as to why Montpellier, last year's French champions, have made such a stuttering start to the defence of their title.

"What they did [last season] is a miracle because I think three years ago they were in the second division and one point away from relegation to division three," he said.

"It is difficult to know why they have not started well this season. Maybe because they were champions and now they are the team to beat. People have maybe a little less urgency and everybody is a bit more cautious against them."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.