Szczesny feels benefits of axing
Wojciech Szczesny feels being dropped last season may have helped him get back on course to cement his place as Arsenal's number one goalkeeper.
The Poland international has kept 11 clean sheets this season for the Gunners, but could not do much as Manchester City romped to a 6-3 win at the Etihad Stadium last weekend.
Szczesny will be out to help Arsene Wenger's side recover what had been the best defensive record in the Barclays Premier League when they host Chelsea on Monday night, in a match which could see Arsenal return to the top of the table.
The 6ft 5ins Pole has certainly produced some consistent displays this season, which has seen calls for Wenger to bring in an experienced goalkeeper fade away.
Szczesny, 23, believes being taken out of the firing line by the Arsenal manager for the Champions League last 16 second-leg tie away to Bayern Munich in March helped him regain some focus to return to top form heading into 2014.
"It is hard to tell (because) I don't know what it would have been like if I wasn't dropped, but looking at my own performances now it must have been a good decision from the manager because I feel better, I feel sharper and more confident in myself," Szczesny said in the January edition of the official Arsenal magazine.
"That little break away from the pressure meant that I could focus on my training to come back sharper, and so far it has worked out pretty well.
"I think I am very consistent now, I am a little bit more mature and the back four are helping me out as well, so I would say it is the most consistent run of my career - but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
"The experience I have had of playing 130-odd games for one of the biggest clubs in the world gives you that maturity and calmness.
"It probably makes a big difference in my performances as well.
"Maybe it comes with maturity but I do feel more focused during games."
Szczesny joined the Gunners as a raw teenager from Legia Warsaw in 2006 and recovered from breaking both his forearms when weight training to enjoy a breakthrough loan spell out at Brentford before establishing himself at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger believes Szczesny has all the potential to become one of Arsenal's "historic" goalkeepers.
Szczesny admits such faith seems "a bit unreal", but is determined to show he can fulfil that potential, having this season penned a new contract extension with the north London club.
"I am 23, so I don't want to think about becoming a great, but it is very nice when people say things like that about you," the Poland goalkeeper said.
"Maybe it puts a bit more pressure on me, but it is still enjoyable and I hope I can prove him right."
Following Liverpool's win over Cardiff and Manchester City's 4-2 triumph at Fulham on Saturday, Arsenal - who once led the table by five points - are now in third place.
Indeed, should Chelsea win on Monday night, then the Gunners will be down to fourth at Christmas, and possibly just a point ahead of Everton, who travel to Swansea on Sunday afternoon.
Nevertheless, Wenger continues to have faith in the squad as they face another stern test of their championship ambitions.
"Our (recent) results have been disappointing for us, but I don't think they have affected the morale," the Arsenal manager said.
"We have made good results until now because we have a good solidarity level and a good togetherness in the squad, and I don't see any sign of that dropping.
"The players are even more focused to respond on Monday night.
"It can happen in a season when sometimes you have a bit of a weaker period.
"How you respond to this kind of problem is what matters, and that is what we want to show on Monday night."