Manuel Almunia is "knocking on the door" of the first-team, according to Arsène Wenger.

The Spaniard is set to continue his role as Arsenal's 'cup keeper' this evening as Emirates Stadium plays host to Tottenham in the Carling Cup Semi-Final second leg.

Jens Lehmann is still firmly Wenger's No 1 keeper and has been in the best form of his illustrious career over the past 18 months. There appears to be plenty left in the tank but, on the other hand, time waits for no-one in football. The German is now 37 and, in keeping with Wenger's well-established policy for his older players, is only given yearly contracts. Quite understandably the Arsenal manager is looking at his options and he agreed that Almunia was "in the frame" to take over as and when Lehmann moves on.

"He is knocking at the door and stronger than ever," Wenger told "I always felt the potential was in him but he has become calmer recently.

"Remember he came from a small club and to play at Arsenal is to be under tremendous pressure from one day to the next. You are under scrutiny for every move that you make. It takes time to adapt to that.

"But now, at 29, he is getting to an age where you become a goalkeeper for the big clubs. He is challenging Jens. But Jens is doing extremely well himself. He is having a great season too.

"That is why I play Almunia in both cup competitions and Jens in the Premiership and Champions League."

So is the former Celta Vigo custodian "in the frame" to take the No 1 position at Emirates?

"For me, yes," Wenger replied when the question was put to him. "That is what I am considering to do.

"If I had to make that decision today then I would say it is Almunia. But it is still open. Of course I know there is a difference between coming in and out or taking the pressure of being the regular goalkeeper for every game.

"But I am very happy with his progress. I must say this season, and last year every time he played in the Champions League, he has been absolutely outstanding."

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31 Jan 2007