By Richard Clarke
Manuel Almunia believes Wednesday night’s Champions League victory over Roma was worth two years of experience to Arsenal’s young side.
The Italian team scored in the ninth minute to level up the Knockout Round second leg tie. They would also spurn a couple of fine chances to take the lead and have a strong shout for a penalty with Gael Clichy appearing to catch Marco Motta just before half-time.
Arsenal responded well after the interval but neither side could break the deadlock. Eduardo missed the first penalty of the shoot-out but then Almunia saved from Marko Vucinic and the visitors secured their passage to the last eight when Max Tonetto blazed his effort over the bar.
It was an incredible saga. One that Almunia feels will fast-track his young team-mates.
"I think this kind of game can give you two years of maturity in one evening,” said the keeper. “I think some players gained a lot of experience from it.
"From now I think they will realise they can be big players and we can face any team in Europe.
"We believe we can win the trophy and the young players will have taken a lot of belief from this.
"We have a lot of talented players but you also need confidence, belief and the right mental attitude.
"We have been questioned this season over our mental attitude because we haven't shown enough character or mental strength but we have young players and they can give more and they have given more now.
"I think we are getting stronger, players are coming back at the right time and I think we can give the fans what they deserve this season.
"They deserve a trophy and we want to give them something back this season. Arsenal is a great club and we believe we can do something great this season.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 13 Mar 2009