Szczesny has faith in Wenger
Wojciech Szczesny insisted Arsenal's players never once questioned Arsene Wenger after the goalkeeper's stunning penalty stop helped ease the mounting pressure on his beleaguered manager. Szczesny's spot-kick save in last night's UFEA Champions League play-off second leg at Udinese could yet prove the turning point of the Gunners' miserable start to the season.
Winless in their opening two Premier League matches, having lost both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to rival clubs, and plagued by a raft of injuries, suspensions and sanctions from the game's governing bodies, it had been a fortnight to forget for Wenger prior to yesterday's clash. The knives would have been out in force had Arsenal failed to reach the Champions League group stage but Wenger's players belied their brittle reputation by completing an impressive comeback at the Stadio Friuli.
"I think the only people who actually believed in the team was the team itself," said Szczesny, who claimed any pressure on Wenger came only from outside the camp. He added: "Inside the team, we don't do that at all. We know how good we are and how good our manager is. We believe in what he is doing so I believe we answered a lot of questions."
It might have been a different story last night but for Szczesny's second-half penalty save from Antonio Di Natale, which preserved Arsenal's aggregate lead. And the goalkeeper revealed he had indulged in a bout of sledging while Di Natale prepared to take the spot-kick. "I gave him a little bit of stick and was probably not very nice to him but it worked so I am delighted," Szczesny said. "I told him he wasn't good enough, I was too good for him and he wasn't going to score - but in a nice way. I got in his head in the head in the end because he missed the penalty."
You will struggle to see a finer penalty save but the confident 21-year-old added: "Someone said once that there are no good saves at penalties - they are just poor penalties taken. I don't take too much credit - I went the right way and when you do that you have a 50 per cent chance of saving the penalty. I don't think it was a great save but still very happy with it."
Arsenal's 2-1 win was the ideal pick-me-up ahead of Sunday's Premier League game at Manchester United, which is already looking like a must-not-lose clash. "The last couple of games, we had disappointing results but, as I said, there was never a doubt in our heads that we are a very good side," Szczesny said. "So we are going to keep going, put in a good performance at Old Trafford on Sunday and see how it goes from there. The team believes we are capable of playing very well and winning games."