By Chris Harris
Manuel Almunia believes that Arsenal are ironing out the defensive flaws which cost them a crack at the title last season.
A quick glance at the Premier League table told you exactly where Arsène Wenger's side went wrong last term. They matched Manchester United in the scoring department but conceded 37 times - 10 more than the champions.
Something had to be done and, according to Almunia, something has been done. The Spanish goalkeeper has conceded just once in two games at Everton and Celtic - and that was a stoppage-time consolation at Goodison Park. The 32-year-old feels more secure in goal and he puts that down to hard work on the training pitch this summer.
"I think everybody knows what we did last season, what mistakes we made," said Almunia after his clean sheet at Celtic. "Everyone knows what we had to improve and every single player is trying to do his best. We will put everything together and that's it.
"We had to improve our communication, our position on the pitch, we need to work as a unit, work as a team. Many, many things can be improved and at the moment, although it is only two games into the season, things are working really well. I feel very confident in the defence and I am relaxed.
"The whole team is defending well, not just the defenders. The midfielders are too and the strikers are defending all together.
"At the moment all the players are really fit and really focused and that is the key to a successful season. It is in the mind - every player has to think about what they are doing on the pitch. They have all the skills to be great players for Arsenal."
Thomas Vermaelen has earned plenty of plaudits for an outstanding start to his first campaign in English football and Almunia can see why. The Belgian centre back has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and Arsenal's back four looks more robust and resolute as a result.
"Thomas has been a good signing for us, he's a very good player, a very good defender," said Almunia. "He has a good left foot, he is good in the air and is very competitive. Now he has to keep it going.
"He has been at the Club for a few months now and he is a very relaxed player, and that makes the people around him relaxed as well. Not only William but me, Gael and Bacary, we are all very confident about this player.
"He is a very tough player, a great defender. Kolo Toure was one of the best defenders at Arsenal over the last few years and I hope Thomas can reach the same level.
"He has good power in the air and in his legs. It is very early in the season to make any decisions about the player but at the moment he is responding very well. But it is not only him, the rest of the team is doing well too."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 20 Aug 2009