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By ESPN Staff

Keeper Almunia gunning for automatic selection

Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia intends to do all he can to remain number one at Emirates Stadium.

After sitting out the midweek Carling Cup win, the 30-year-old Spaniard is set to return for Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to West Ham, where victory would keep the Gunners top of the table.

Almunia has been handed the chance of a run in the first team following injury to veteran German Jens Lehmann, who will need around another week to recover from the elbow problem picked up on international duty and was guilty of a couple of blunders during the early games of this season.

Manager Arsene Wenger knows the time is fast approaching when he will have to make a choice between the two once again.

Almunia - replaced against Newcastle to allow young Pole Lukasz Fabianski a first full debut - intends to make it a tough decision for the Gunners boss.

'It has been a really good season for us so far and personally for me,' said Almunia, who has conceded just two goals since being drafted into the starting line-up.

'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.'

Almunia has kept successive clean sheets in his last two games and believes he is producing his best form since arriving at Arsenal from Celta Vigo during 2004.

He told the club's official website:'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.'

The win over Newcastle in midweek - achieved by a young side - was Arsenal's seventh in a row, and came on the back of the club's parent company returning strong financial results.

Wenger has urged for a degree of caution, despite the optimistic start to a campaign which had looked so uncertain following the summer sale of star man Thierry Henry to Barcelona.

Almunia admits the players have themselves been somewhat taken aback by the level of their quality performances so far.

He said: '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% and all our talent is coming out. That didn't always happen last year.'

Even though they have produced such a superb start, no-one is getting carried away ahead of the trip to Upton Park, where Arsenal lost 1-0 last season to late goal.

'We want to achieve three points against West Ham,' Almunia declared. 'That is my only worry and it is the only worry of the boss and the rest of the team.'