By Richard Clarke

Vito Mannone says that Saturday's performance against Fulham was the best of his blossoming career.

The Italian came to Arsenal aged 15 and made his professional debut during a loan spell at Barnsley three years later. Even Mannone says his time in Yorkshire did not go to plan. But he dug in, bounced back and, over the last few weeks, has seized his chance in the absence of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.

Now 21, Mannone hit the headlines this weekend after a pulling off a string of stunning saves at Craven Cottage to help secure a priceless 1-0 victory for Arsenal.

"I would say yes [it was my best ever game] because when I played in the past maybe it wasn't so important," he said afterwards. "When you come into the first team, you must show what you can do and I think it did it. I am really happy for that.
"For me [the best moment] was the double save in the first half when I went to my right. That gave me a lot of confidence to get into the game.

"But it was a good performance by the team aswell. I think we showed a lot of character in this game. When you come away from home you have to show you can play physically and on the floor. We got our chance and we scored from it."

Mannone's short career is characterised by patience, persistence and the willingness to take a chance - even if things have not always gone totally to plan.

"I came here when I was very young," he said. "I was 15 when I had a trial and 16 when I actually started that season.

"I was 18 when I went [to Barnsley on loan] and I wasn't ready. But it gave me a lot of experience even if things went a little bad for me. It gave me a lot of confidence to come back and I think I have grown since then. I have trained a lot and worked hard.

"After five years, this game makes me happy. I am only 21 and for a goalkeeper that is quite young. In Italy maybe they have a different style for growing young talents. Here, in England, they give you more possibilities.

"Before the game the boss told me to stay relaxed, use my technique and play as I do in training. I tried to do that and it went well."

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28 Sep 2009