Arsenal star set for showdown talks after Manchester United snub

Does Manuel Almunia have a future at Arsenal after Wojciech Szczesny’s impressive debut?

MANUEL Almunia could leave Arsenal in January after he was overlooked for Monday’s crunch clash at Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger stunned Almunia and all Arsenal fans by giving third-choice keeper Wojciech Szczesny his Premier League debut in the 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

And while 20-year-old Szczesny put in a promising display, Almunia is now seeking showdown talks with Wenger having not played for almost three months.

The Spaniard picked up an elbow injury in the 3-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion in September and has not played since, with Lukasz Fabianski taking over the No1 role.

He made a comeback in a recent reserve game, but has since suffered a recurrence of the injury in training, although the player himself is believed to feel he is ready to play.

Wenger though is adamant that Almunia is not yet match-fit but his selection of Szczesny for a game of such magnitude is believed to be the final straw for the 33-year-old Almunia.

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“We have never talked about Almunia leaving,” said Wenger when quizzed about the keeper, who has 18 months left on his contract.

“I heard it is his agent who has been talking, but he doesn’t have an agent at the moment so I don’t know where that is coming from.”

A return to Spain could be a possibility for Almunia, who joined the Gunners in 2004 from Celta Vigo, and finally took over the No1 slot from Jens Lehmann in 2007.

Wenger tried to replace Almunia with Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer in the summer, and now the emergence of Polish duo Fabianski and Szczesny has meant that he could be down the pecking order again.

Szczesny enjoyed a fine league debut at Old Trafford despite the defeat that saw the Gunners knocked off top spot by United.

However they could return to the summit with victory over Stoke on Saturday, with United heading to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea 24 hours later.

And Szczesny said: “If we put in a good performance against Stoke then we are up there again. We have to pick ourselves up and get three points on Saturday.

“Our confidence is not any lower than it was before the game. We know we are still up there fighting for the title. We have the belief that we are the best side in the Premier League and we are capable of beating anyone. We feel we have a chance in the title race.

“We are good enough to recover from [losing to United] and getting three points. If we are thinking of winning the title we have to get three points from this game.”

The youngster is hopeful of keeping his place for the visit of Stoke to the Emirates, with Fabianski still struggling with the groin injury that ruled him out on Monday.

“Now I know how it feels to play in the Premier League I want more of it,” said Szczesny. “But next time I want to come out of it with a clean sheet and three points.”