By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger admits that Manuel Almunia would have felt “jobless” during his long spell on the sidelines.

The Spanish goalkeeper has not featured in the first team since September’s 3-2 home defeat against West Brom after suffering an elbow injury in that game and then picking up an ankle problem.

Almunia’s future has been the subject of speculation this month but he returns to the squad for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Huddersfield and Wenger is happy to have him back.

“He has been injured for a long time and in a situation like that you feel jobless,” said the manager, who revealed that Almunia played through pain in his last appearance.

“Of course I feel for him. In fairness it [his elbow injury] was against West Brom and that was a long, long time ago. He came out in the second half, but I left him the choice at half-time. I asked him how he felt and credit to him.

“After that when he was nearly ready he injured his ankle in training [on the day of Man U game].

“He said he wanted to stay on [against West Brom]. I do not reproach him for that at all and credit to him. But you never know, when you have a little injury you feel you can go on.

“I don’t know how many times the doctor said Nigel Winterburn was finished and could not go on and you have to take him off. And Nigel said ‘I play’ and he played.”

Some have doubted whether Almunia would ever pull on an Arsenal shirt again after Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny staked their first-team claims in his absence. But Wenger always felt that the Spaniard had something to offer.

“You [reporters] thought that [he would not play again], but I never thought that.

“We have four keepers - Szczesny, Fabianski, Almunia and Mannone. All the four are good. You can always look and feel sorry for the three [who are not playing].”

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28 Jan 2011