Vito Mannone could quite easily be keeping goal in the Championship this season instead of performing heroics for Arsenal.

The Italian goalkeeper weighed up his options in the summer and was on the verge of a loan move before a knee injury sidelined Lukasz Fabianski. Suddenly Mannone was the understudy to Manuel Almunia and, before long, he was thrust into the first-team spotlight when the Spaniard picked up a chest infection.

The rest is history. Mannone produced a stunning display as Arsenal beat Fulham 1-0 at Craven Cottage and impressed once more when Olympiacos visited Emirates Stadium in the Champions League. The Italian kept his place for Saturday's win against Blackburn but he admits that it could have all been so different.

“In the summer, yes, we had a talk about a loan move,” Vito told the Official Matchday Programme. "The boss was quite happy for me to go somewhere and play, because as you can see now, I was ready to play games.

"Now things have changed, it’s a different situation, but in the summer I was looking forward to a loan move, to get some experience. But if you play five games in the Arsenal first team, that’s equivalent to the experience of about three months in the Championship.

"A couple of teams were lined up, but then Lukasz got injured and they told me to stay. It’s funny how things happen in football."

Mannone's performance at Craven Cottage underlined the depth in Arsenal's goalkeeping ranks. So how did the Italian celebrate after his heroics in west London?

“I just went with my family and shared the happiness with them," he said. "I watched the game again on TV that night, with my family, and we were all very happy. Really it’s difficult to explain what’s happening around me at the moment – it’s been crazy for the last few days so I’m just keeping my feet on the floor and work hard in training.

“When I got back into the dressing room [after the Fulham game], all the players chanted my name. I was very happy. The best thing is when your team-mates are pleased and proud of you. One of the most important things for a goalkeeper is for the team to have confidence in you. If you do the right thing it’s important for them as well because they are nice and relaxed, they know I am there. I can sort out some problems for them and they can do the same for me.

"They are calling me Gigi [Buffon, the Italian No 1],” he added. “It’s a very big compliment for me. Even in training now, when I make a save - I’m not Vito anymore!”

This interview first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme. You can subscribe to the Matchday Programme by calling 08700 20 20 20.

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6 Oct 2009