Arsenal without Wojciech Szczesny for Champions League opener in Montpellier

Arsenal without Szczesny for Champions League opener as Vermaelen demands focus

|

UPDATED:

14:02 GMT, 17 September 2012

Arsenal will be without first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for their opening Champions League Group B match in Montpellier on Tuesday.

The Pole has an ankle injury and will be replaced by Vito Mannone, with 21-year-old James Shea on the bench.

Szczesny was at fault for Southampton's goal in Arsenal 6-1 Premier League win on Saturday when he collided with Carl Jenkinson to present Danny Fox with a tap-in.

Missing out: Arsenal will be without Wojciech Szczesny for their Champions League opener in Montpellier

Missing out: Arsenal will be without Wojciech Szczesny for their Champions League opener in Montpellier

Meanwhile, Thomas Vermaelen has called for Arsenal to retain the focus that has delivered an unbeaten start to the season as they kick-off their Champions League campaign.

The trip to the south of France marks the beginning of a crucial fortnight in which the Gunners travel to champions Manchester City and host Chelsea in the league.

‘We have to stay focused because there are a few hard
games coming up,’ Vermaelen told Arsenal Player.

We need focus: Thomas Vermaelen trains ahead of Arsenal's departure to France for the start of their European campaign

We need focus: Thomas Vermaelen trains ahead of Arsenal's departure to France for the start of their European campaign

‘We have to play away at Montpellier on Tuesday and then
we have Manchester City so it is not going to be easy. It is good for
confidence, we are happy today but Tuesday is another game.

‘The Champions League is always different so that will be
a test as well, especially away from home. Manchester City are the champions
from last year so it won’t be easy.

‘We have to go there and play our own game – I am
confident we can get a result there.

‘The team has a strong bond in the dressing room and
outside as well. It feels good. All of the players, especially the guys who
came in, look good. Everybody plays with a lot of confidence and that is good.’

Arsenal trained at London Colney on Monday morning before flying out to the south of France from Luton for their opening group stage fixture.

Midfielder Abou Diaby is part of the 18-man party after a hip problem, but Russian winger Andrey Arshavin misses out.

Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Bacary Sagna are long-term absentees.

Manager Arsene Wenger believes his side have shown
enough so far this season to challenge for the Premier League title and the
visit to City will off a good measuring stick.

Eyes on the prize: Abou Diaby (left) and Santi Cazorla in training on Monday

Eyes on the prize: Abou Diaby (left) and Santi Cazorla in training on Monday

Final preparations: Cazorla (left), Lukas Podolski (centre) and Per Mertesacker are put through their paces

Final preparations: Cazorla (left), Lukas Podolski (centre) and Per Mertesacker are put through their paces

Of Arsenal’s title chances, he said: ‘We will know after
ten games. I think we have a chance. But do we develop well, do we keep our
attitude

‘I think we have a chance but at the moment I don’t know
how strong our opponents are. We’ve not played against any of the title
contenders yet.

‘We won the championship in 2004 and we played against
Chelsea in November the following season and I finished the game thinking: ‘We’ve
just played against the new champions.’

‘It will be important to see how we do against the bigger
teams. It will be interesting.

‘It will be a test next Sunday but for us the most
important part will be to maintain our level of performance that we showed
against Southampton and go from game to game.’

Arsenal's provisional squad for Montpellier: Mannone, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Cazorla, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta, Podolski, Giroud, Gervinho, Walcott, Diaby, Shea, Santos, Koscielny