By Matt Fortune

Manuel Almunia believes that changing the number on his shirt simply underlines his status at the Club.

The Spanish stopper wrestled the goalkeeping berth away from Jens Lehmann last term and was rewarded with the coveted jersey following the German’s departure in the close season. Almunia insists that he will now cement his place as both a stopper and as a mentor.

“The only thing that has changed this season is the number of my shirt,” Almunia told “That has changed, but the situation, I hope, will not change and I can have many, many games in goal for Arsenal.

“My role in the team, I expect, will be to show myself as a good example for people around Arsenal. I would like to be a reference for the young players and help them as best I can. But also I want to give my all to performing for the team.”

Almunia was talking after the Gunners got their pre-season off to a winning start against Barnet on Saturday. And he revealed that it was just the tonic after a tough couple of weeks on the training field.

“I think the team was tired, you could see that,” said Almunia. “It’s because we have been in really hard training for two weeks, but hopefully the fans enjoyed the game. This was the first test and personally I enjoyed it.

“Football players like to play games, not just training, so it was nice to be back on the field. The start of pre-season is always hard. We train both in the morning and in the afternoon.

“At the moment the mood is fine, but there are many players to come back. I am looking forward to having everyone back together and for us all to get ready for a good season.”

The Spanish stopper was also suitably impressed with the new signings on show at Underhill.

“[Aaron] Ramsey is a very good creator of chances, very similar to Cesc Fabregas. But of course we must remember that he is still very young and he has to learn from people like Cesc, Abou [Diaby] and the rest of the players that have been here a long time."

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
22 Jul 2008