Poyet: Mannone has nothing to prove

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has told Vito Mannone he has nothing to prove as he prepares to return to Arsenal.

Vito Mannone of Sunderland

The 25-year-old goalkeeper has established himself as first-choice at the Stadium of Light since getting the nod ahead of Keiren Westwood in November, little more than four months after ending his eight-year spell with the Gunners.

Mannone made just 26 senior appearances for Arsene Wenger's side as he found his way to the first team blocked by the likes of Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia, Mart Poom, Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny.

However, Poyet has had no reason to regret his decision to opt for the Italian ahead of Westwood for the 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Manchester City on November 10, and has asked for more of the same on his first return to the Emirates Stadium.

The 46-year-old said: "It is true that it was one of the hardest decisions I have made before the Manchester City game, to play Vito or to play Westy.

"Sometimes you make decisions that don't go for you and you make a massive mistake and you need to rectify it and go back, and sometimes the player proves you right and he becomes a success.

"But that's up to the player. Vito is not playing well because I put him in against Manchester City. Vito is playing well because he is doing well and he is in a great moment.

"This game for him should be a great day. He needs to take it as a very enjoyable day and not that he has something to prove, because then he will change the whole approach and the whole feeling during the game.

"I haven't talked to him, to be honest, I am trying to give the same importance as any other game to this one, no more than normal."

Mannone's return to Arsenal comes a week or so before he and his team-mates head for north London once again for their Capital One Cup final clash with Manchester City.

The two games represent big tests for the Black Cats for very different reasons, but Poyet is confident his keeper will take the first phase of the mission in his stride.

He said: "I hope firstly he gets a good reception because every time he was called to play for them, he did very well."

If Mannone's career has been elevated to a new level since his move to Wearside, full-back Phil Bardsley's has taken a further step forward after he was recalled to the Scotland squad for next month's friendly against Poland.

Bardsley might have left the club during the summer after being sent to train with the Under-21s by former boss Paolo Di Canio, but has played a key role in a recent revival.

Poyet said: "What a year. It started very dark for Phil. It looked really bad and finished, and now he finds himself in the national team, which is great.

"I hope he takes that opportunity as well. I hope he can go really happy because that means we won the final."

Bardsley will be joined in Warsaw by club-mate Steven Fletcher, who is in line to feature as a substitute at the Emirates following his return from an Achilles problem.

Asked if Fletcher could be involved, Poyet said: "Yes. I would say 90 minutes, no - I am not going to lie, even if I give a little bit of information to the opposition.

"It would be a massive risk to play him from the beginning, but let's say Friday is an important day to define really if we can use him for a while at the end of the game."

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