Nobody had heard of Vito Mannone two weeks ago, and now it seems like he is going to be a regular in the Arsenal side, but where did he come from?
He was another one of the youngsters that Arsene Wenger’s foreign scouts found in Italy in 2005, when he was 17 years of age, and before Mannone could legally (in Italy) sign professional papers with his club Atalanta, Arsene Wenger snapped him up and brought him to England.
Arsenal had to pay Atalanta £350,000 in compensation, which seems very cheap for such a promising youngster, considering that the compensation set for Fran Merida was £3.5m, but i’m sure Wenger didn’t complain!
He played his first game in a pre-season friendly just after his arrival, when an Arsenal team made up of mostly reserves beat Barnet 4-1.
He was then loaned out to Barnsley for three months, but after four disastrous games he was brought back after he suffered an injury to his knee.
When Mannone recovered he was twice close to moving to Scotland on loan, but both Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Gretna refused to guarantee him a first team place and he remained in the reserve squad at Arsenal.
In 2007/08 he was the understudy to Lukas Fabianski in Wenger’s Carling Cup team. but didn’t actually get a game. This didn’t stop Arsene Wenger believing in his potential and he was given a new improved contract in January 2008.
He finally got his first team start on the last day of last season against Stoke, with nothing at stake, and he performed adequately and the team won 4-1.
The injury to Fabianski at the start of this season saw him promoted to be Almunia’s deputy, and he was thrust into the limelight against Standard Liege last week, thanks to Almunia’s throat infection, where he had the nightmare of letting in two goals in the first five minutes.
Wenger had said before the game: “It is a big challenge for a young boy to come into a Champions League game with such a big pressure, especially away from home,”
“When you look at the stadium, it will be quite a difficult atmosphere.”
As Arsenal won the game anyway, Wenger was happy to keep him in goal for yesterday’s game against Wigan, and, although he didn’t have much to do, it will have given him great confidence to have finally kept a clean sheet in an Arsenal shirt.
I’m sure it won’t be his last!