The first round of Champions League fixtures have been played and there have been two wins, a draw and a defeat for the English clubs involved. A hard fought victory for the Gunners means that we should go into the game on Sunday against Manchester City, who lost in the closing minutes to Real Madrid after leading 2-1, with a positive frame of mind.
This game will tell us how far we've come this season. I know it will only be our fifth league game and that in a way it cannot tell us everything we need to know about this team just yet. But it will be our first big test this term against a team who finished above us in the top four.
Manchester City have strengthened their squad but not with players who will push them further ahead than all their rivals in my opinion. They've added good players but no world beaters and of course they were snubbed by the greedy badger.
Our summer business, in my opinion, has pushed us on. The signings of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla have added further strength to our squad and although some would disagree with me, I think Olivier Giroud will come good given time.
We'll head to Eastlands unbeaten in the league and with a better goal difference than our host. We come into this fixture having both played Liverpool, Stoke and Southampton.
One of the key features we've enjoyed this term has been a solid back four. Arsene Wenger has decided not to change the line up of Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs for any of our four league games nor Tuesday's Champions League tie against Montpellier despite having the option of a fit Laurent Koscielny or Andre Santos.
The one position in defence he has changed is the goalkeeper. Wojciech Szczesny started the season as our undisputed number one. But having picked up a rib injury in the game against Sunderland was replaced by third choice Vito Mannone for the trips to the Britannia and Anfield.
Although recalled for the game at the Grove against newly promoted Southampton, Szczesny picked up an ankle injury in the warm up and played despite of it. Subsequently, he fumbled a cross which allowed Daniel Fox to score. It was the first league goal we'd conceded this term and broke our sequence of three clean sheets in a row.
Given the confidence Vito Mannone has gained through his performances so far this term and Szczesny's indifferent form plus injuries, I wouldn't be surprised if Arsene Wenger opted to start the Italian in goal against the champions on Sunday and it appears he's ready for it.
The 24-year-old Italian said:
"It is a tough test. I thought 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, if you want to take it like that.
"City are champions, so we know we have to go there and prepare properly.
"We must dictate the game, because they are a great team again and it will be a top challenge."It appears that prior to last weekend's home match against Southampton, Mannone spoke with Arsene Wenger about his position at the club.
"I had two clean sheets in the first two games I played and before the Southampton game the boss talked to me and for the first time I felt he understood I was ready to be No.1.
"As he said, I am really close to the shirt. At the minute I hope after this result, something’s changed."I don't have a problem with the Italian starting at Eastlands. In fact I'd prefer him to start over Szczesny. At the moment I'm really concerned with the Poland international's form. I'm not sure he's in the right frame of mind either, given he's lost his position as his country's first choice keeper.
As I've said in previous posts, I'm not convinced that Szczesny has developed at the rate the club would have hoped he would have in the last two seasons when he's been a main stay between the sticks. Perhaps he's become complacent. I know there are concerns about his distribution which doesn't seem to have improved since he first made his debut against Manchester United.
One thing Szczesny does have over Mannone is the aura and confidence of a number one goalkeeper. And I think that the Italian will only be able to pick that up after a serious number of consecutive games.
I think having a keeper in the ranks as hungry for his chance as Mannone appears to be can only be good for Arsenal. I like Szczesny. He's a big character and has all the attributes to be a world class keeper. But he needs to work harder if he's going to get to that level.
One thing I was pleased about reading following the win was Lukas Podolski saying we need to improve.
The German international said:
"I think we played well in the first half. In the second half, we weren’t as good as we didn’t do enough up front.
"Montpellier played well in the second half, and we didn’t impose ourselves going forward. We must improve. But we picked up the three points, it’s always difficult away from home, and we’re happy we did it."We've brought ourselves a great player in Podolski in my opinion and one who certainly has the right character. I'm glad he's come out and said what he's said after a win because it shows that he has a desire to do well at the club. And that's what I want to see.
That's all for today. Back tomorrow with more.