While many players would love the chance to play for a Premiership giant like Arsenal, for Manuel Almunia the transfer meant he would have to explore the depths of his patience. For his first few seasons at the London club, Almunia would serve as the backup to Jens Lehmann, the keeper who has won the Bundesliga and the Premier League and was named Best European Goalkeeper twice in his career.
The beginning of Almunia’s stint with Arsenal saw the Spaniard minding the net primarily for Cup fixtures. He distinguished himself with his superior shot blocking abilities and won several games for the Gunners by saving penalty kicks. He played one league game in 2006-2007, posting a clean sheet against Liverpool, but could not break into the regular starting lineup until the beginning of the 2007-2008 season. Lehmann suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury in August, which gave Almunia the opportunity to prove himself. The Spaniard seized his chance and has cemented himself as Arsenal’s number one choice between the woodwork, despite Lehmann’s return to health.
Almunia has yet to play internationally, and because he has not been called up by Spain he holds out hope that he will be able to obtain an England passport and make his first international appearance for the Three Lions. Almunia completed his journey from an unknown backup keeper to a domestic superstar when he signed a lengthy contract extension with Arsenal this spring. After posting a record of 17 wins, six ties and one loss through Arsenal’s first 33 league games, including 11 clean sheets, Almunia appears to be the goalkeeper of the future for one of England’s best clubs.