By Chris Harris
They say patience is a virtue and Manuel Almunia would surely agree. The Spanish goalkeeper has been understudy to Jens Lehmann since he joined Arsenal three years ago but an injury to the Germany No 1 has given the Spaniard his chance. He has taken it with aplomb.
Almunia played in six successive first-team games before sitting out the Carling Cup victory over Newcastle on Tuesday, and could feature for Saturday's trip to Upton Park as Arsenal look to build on their impressive start to the Premier League season.
The 30-year-old has conceded just two goals since being drafted into the starting line-up. He puts that down to two things - the quality of the players in front of him and his own improvement as a goalkeeper.
"It has been a really good season for us so far and personally for me," Almunia told Arsenal.com. "I am enjoying so much my position in the team and I am trying to help the team as best I can. At the moment things are going well and I keep my fingers crossed that it stays the same.
"I am a better keeper now. If you are a hard worker and don't get down then you always improve. If it's not this year then it's next year but in the end you will play if you keep going and going. If you try to improve every day you get the results and that's what is happening with me.
"I am a bit surprised by how well we are doing. It's obvious, everybody is surprised with us. This team is so young but at the same time we have a lot of talent. When I am on the pitch I feel as if every player is giving 100 per cent and all our talent is coming out. That didn't always happen last year."
So can Arsenal maintain their fine start and collect some silverware this season? Almunia would not be drawn. Three points from Saturday's London derby is all he is concerned about.
"We want to achieve three points against West Ham," he said. "That is my only worry and it is the only worry of the boss and the rest of the team."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 27 Sep 2007