Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone grateful to have been to Hull and back

 

After only one "matchday" to use Uefa's favoured terminology, Group B of the Champions League is already taking the predicted shape. On Tuesday night the two most-fancied teams both won away by two goals to one: Arsenal in Montpellier and Schalke at Olympiakos of Greece. This suggests that the double-header between them in the middle of the campaign will decide who wins the section. The first of those games is at the Emirates on 24 October and the return in Germany a fortnight later, when Arsène Wenger will finally be back on the touchline and in the dressing room after serving his three-match ban.

Despite having reached the second stage for 12 successive seasons, Arsenal have suffered in the past from finishing as runners-up, receiving a tougher draw in the first knockout round, and that is a fate they would like to avoid this time. Having said that, the unfashionable French champions pushed them hard enough in their atmospheric Stade de Mosson to convince Mikel Arteta, for one, that they should not be ruled out of contention yet. "They created some problems for us and if they continue to play like that they can get one of the top two places in the group," the Arsenal midfielder said.

His team had shrugged off an early deficit to score twice in as many minutes shortly afterwards but in the second half they were outplayed and it was not surprising that Steve Bould, standing in for Wenger, confessed to "a headache and a half" as pressure built up on and off the pitch.

By the time of the final group match, however, the London side would ideally want to be travelling to Athens having already won the section, which was exactly the position a year ago. On that occasion, Vito Mannone was given a rare opportunity in goal after Lukas Fabianski was injured, but he failed to take it, committing a howler for the second goal in a 3-1 defeat and being packed off on loan to Hull City a month later.

This season he has looked much more confident when deputising for Wojciech Szczesny. Younes Belhanda's cheeky chipped "Panenka" penalty on Tuesday was the only time he has been beaten in three games and his save in the last 10 minutes from the same player, who was only a few yards out, preserved the three points.

Speaking afterwards, the Italian credited his period on Humberside with restoring his self-belief. "Nobody wants to go there really, but I found myself really well," he said. "I found a good club and gained experience. I played 24 games in a row so that's what I needed."

Another player needing to demonstrate mental strength is Theo Walcott, who has not started since the opening game of the season and appeared on Tuesday only as a time-wasting last-minute substitute. The England winger has yet to agree a new contract and although Arsenal decided to hang on to him in the summer transfer window, the form shown by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and now Gervinho, who justified his selection down the right in Montpellier with a driving performance, appear to have made a January parting of the ways more likely.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam