Szcesny eager to grab Gunners chance
Wojciech Szczesny emerged from the rubble of Arsenal's damaging defeat at Manchester United to declare his intention to seize the unexpected chance handed to him by Arsene Wenger.
The 20-year-old leapt to the head of Wenger's goalkeeping queue at Old Trafford yesterday when he was handed the starting spot against Manchester United because of concern over Lukasz Fabianski's hip problem.
It was a remarkable show of faith in the youngster, who had previously played just three Carling Cup games for the Gunners.
However, the bold move did not pay dividends as Arsenal slipped to a 1-0 defeat which leaves them two points behind United, having played a game more.
Wenger, though, declared himself satisfied with Szczesny's contribution - and the player himself is determined not to slip quietly back into the shadows.
"I am a reserve goalkeeper at the moment so I need to take every chance I get and this was a massive chance for me," he said.
"I felt that for my debut I did well enough. Unfortunately it wasn't enough for us to get any points but this is my big chance and I need to take it."
In any normal season, five defeats before Christmas would be enough to end any hope of a championship challenge, particularly when the leaders remain unbeaten.
But this is no normal campaign. And if the Gunners can overcome Stoke at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, they will return to top spot, albeit for just 24 hours until United visit Chelsea.
"It was a disappointing result, but we won't get too down. We are still very confident," insisted Szczesny.
"We believe if we recover on Saturday and put in the right performance against Stoke we could easily get three points and be back in the title race straight away.
"That is what the manager told us afterwards; he just tried to get us to focus on the match on Saturday.
"This game is gone. The team performance was quite good, but we just didn't get as much luck as United."
In fact, Szczesny viewed the winner as being a huge slice of good fortune.
Whilst most observers hailed Park Ji-sung for the manner in which he quickly angled his body to reach Nani's deflected cross, then send it looping into the Arsenal's net, the young keeper felt it was a fluke.
"Their goal was really lucky," he said.
"I don't think Park meant to head the ball, it just hit him and went in the top corner."
The assessment is a little harsh on an evening when Wenger became embroiled in a minor spat with a journalist who rather forcibly made a valid point about Arsenal's problem winning the biggest of matches.
It is now six games without a win against United and on December 27 they face a Chelsea side they have lost five successive times against.
That run must come to an end if Arsenal fans are to convince themselves this is a season when they can realistically mount a challenge.
The appearances of Cesc Fabregas, who has been out with a hamstring problem, and Robin van Persie as second-half substitutes offer much hope for optimism - although what is more open to question is whether they are capable of producing the blanket defensive performance that secured United their win last night.
Not that Szczesny views last night's opponents as superior. Far from it.
"We are still confident we are the top side in the Premier League," he said.
"Manchester United are beatable. Everyone is.
"The Premier League is very tight this year. They do have a solid back four, I will admit that, but they are beatable."