Aston Villa v Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny says Arsenal clean sheets have 'made me very happy'

Goalkeeper impressed by those who have come into the backline

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is confident Arsenal's mean defensive streak can see them stay ahead in the race for the Barclays Premier League title.

The Gunners will set out to return to the top of the table when they travel to Aston Villa on Monday night.

Since shipping six at Manchester City last month, the Arsenal rearguard have been breached just once, at West Ham on New Year's Day, to restore their status of holding the best defensive record in the top flight.

Szczesny is scheduled to return between the posts at Villa Park having been rested for the 2-0 FA Cup win over Tottenham last weekend.

And the 23-year-old Pole, who has kept 14 clean sheets in all competitions, feels there is growing confidence in a back line which has developed into an effective unit - no matter what the personnel.

"I prefer to play behind the same back four because we have got a very good understanding, but you have to give credit to the players that have come in, when everyone does as well as they been doing recently it really doesn't matter," Szczesny said.

"Thomas Vermaelen has done really well when he has been in the team as have the others, like Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson.

"As long as the players coming in are in good shape and bring in the same principles into the game, it doesn't make much difference.

"Hopefully they can maintain that form because the amount of clean sheets we have kept lately has made me very happy."

Szczesny added in the Arsenal matchday magazine: "Clean sheets or something we have always wanted to improve because over the last few years we haven't been the strongest in the league defensively.

"Last season we improved a lot, but I think now we are showing much more consistency in our defending.

"There is still room for improvement, but I have to credit the defenders and the shape of the whole team."

The current Arsenal defence may not yet have earned legendary status as the one which drove Wenger to his first Double in 1998 or on which the Invincibles of 2003/2004, but the French coach feels the foundations are promising.

"We had a very stable and solid defensive record since the start of the season, with two blips - one was against Villa in the first game and one was when we played at Man City," he said.

"But overall our defensive record has been absolutely top and that is what we want to keep until the end of the season, and even improve."

Arsenal have a superb record at Villa Park, where they were last beaten in the Premier League back in December 1998.

Monday's trip to the Midlands will also present an opportunity for the players to lay to rest their 3-1 home defeat by Paul Lambert's men on the opening day of the season which sparked much criticism of the direction Arsenal where heading.

Wenger, though, insisted: "It is not about revenge.

"The opening day of the season is not Villa's fault, and what happened after the game is not Villa's fault.

"We just had to face dissatisfaction from people and our fans, that was completely normal.

"Villa is just another game. What is always important is the next game and to produce a good performance."

PA

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