Arsenal v Reading preview: Arsene Wenger keeps the faith in Wojciech Szczesny


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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny should be very proud of already having made 100 first-team appearances - and recalled even legendary number one David Seaman had his “blips”.

The Poland stopper has not featured for the last two matches before the international break, dropped for Lukasz Fabianski against Bayern Munich and then watching on from the bench at Swansea, decisions which brought outspoken comments from his father.

The 22-year-old moved quickly to distance himself from that direct criticism of Wenger, insisting he was happy to fight for his place, having come through the Arsenal youth system after joining from Legia Warsaw in 2006.

Wenger has every confidence in Szczesny's long-term ability.

“That (100 appearances) is a huge credit to him, something absolutely fantastic and shows he has a great future,” Wenger said in an interview with Arsenal Player.

“What is happening to him at the moment is just a normal process of any career - we had (Jens) Lehmann, (David) Seaman, they had their blips and their periods where they were less good, even when they were more experienced than Wojciech.”

Wenger must decide whether to recall Szczesny for tomorrow's visit of relegation-battlers Reading, but has drawn a line under the recent selection row.

“I haven't spoken to him (about his father's comments), but I believe he responded very well. There is a not a lot more to say,” the Gunners boss told a news conference.

“We are in a competitive world, he has played 100 games for this club and at his age that is absolutely fantastic.

“For the rest, we have ups and downs in our form and we have to fight against that, that is what he said, basically.

“Wojciech has a great future. He is a very young goalkeeper. You do not find very many goalkeepers at his age who have the experience he has already, that is why I believe he has a great future, but he lives in a world where competition exists.”

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, meanwhile, insists his work-rate will remain the same, whether he is in the side or not.

The Belgian centre-back is another who has found himself watching from the sidelines, an unused substitute against both Bayern and Swansea.

Wenger must decide whether to stand by the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker when domestic action resumes tomorrow, or recall his skipper to the heart of the defence.

Vermaelen maintains whatever final decision is made will not change his approach.

Speaking in his captain's column in tomorrow's official Arsenal matchday magazine, Vermaelen said: “I am fighting to win my place back, and nothing will change my mentality or the way I work - I will give everything every day, as I have throughout my career.

“It is just something that happens in football, especially when you play for a big club.

“I always want to play, of course, but the boss has big decisions to make and puts the team on the pitch that he thinks will win the game.

“It worked on both of those occasions, and each time I was delighted that we won.”

Vermaelen added: “I have played many games in my career, and spending two on the bench does not mean the world is on fire.

“You can't be surprised by these things, the only thing to do is keep going and make sure you come back strongly.”

Arsenal's win at Swansea moved them back to within four points of Tottenham, who have played a game more.

Wenger knows the race for Champions League football is set to go to the wire.

“It is the sprint for the line now and we want to continue our run, to have the satisfaction where we want to be at the end of the season,” said Wenger, whose team have recorded five wins and suffered just one defeat, at White Hart Lane, in their past seven league outings.

“It is just down to consistency, you try to achieve that on your own side knowing all teams can drop points everywhere, so you want to be the team who drops less, and if possible not at all.

“That is he only attitude we can have to be successful.”

Wenger added: “Reading fight not to go down, we fight to be in the top four, so all the ingredients are there to have a passionate, committed game, but in the end what is important is we come out on top.”