Feel-good factor returns to lift Gunners
As Wojciech Szczesny regaled the media yesterday with tales of being reprimanded in school for talking too much, the grin on the face of Arsene Wenger told another story.
The Arsenal training ground has been a gloomy place for much of the past nine months but with the team now challenging for a top-four Premier League finish and able to secure their place tonight against Borussia Dortmund in the knockout phase of the Champions League, the smiles have returned. So too has the self-confidence.
Jack Wilshere even took to Twitter to arrange a charity bet with Tottenham fans over who would finish highest in the Premier League.
Wenger was also listing Arsenal among the seven teams who could still win the title and reflecting on the potential achievement of a 12th straight year in the last-16 of the European Cup. Most of all, though, Wenger was enjoying listening to Szczesny, who he preferred to describe as "honest" rather than excessively confident. He also dismissed Szczesny's own description of himself as "maybe" a little bit crazy.
"I think Szczesny is a natural -- he is not crazy," said Wenger.
So relentless has Robin van Persie been this season in front of goal, it has been easy to overlook some of the supporting factors that explain Arsenal's sudden upsurge in form. And chief among them is Szczesny who, at the age of just 21, has silenced those who have routinely questioned the quality of Arsenal's goalkeepers since Jens Lehmann.
With Tomas Rosicky suffering from a thigh strain, Abou Diaby has been selected in the Arsenal squad for the first time this season and with Wenger intent on not leaving qualification to hinge on the away trip to Olympiakos next month, Van Persie will start.
Following the release of Manchester City's accounts, which showed an annual loss of £194.9m, Wenger also reiterated his concern that Uefa would not fully implement their financial fair-play regulations.
"When I see the number announced by Man City, do you really think it will work in 2013?" he said. "I cannot see it when the wage bill is bigger than the turnover. Will Uefa have the legal power to force it through today? In other countries, you have as well Paris St-Germain and Malaga (who have billionaire investors). Once they represent a force together, it will be difficult to fight against." (© Daily Telegraph, London).