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Wenger calls on fit-again Almunia to fight for place

Arsene Wenger yesterday confirmed Wojciech Szczesny is Arsenal's "number one" but challenged fit-again Manuel Almunia to reclaim the role -- starting against Huddersfield in the FA Cup tomorrow.

Almunia (33) has not played since the end of September, when he injured his elbow saving a penalty in the home defeat against West Brom, and then suffered an ankle problem when he was close to a return.

In the Spaniard's absence, Lukasz Fabianski, who has since picked up a shoulder injury, and then Szczesny impressed when stepping in between the posts.

Almunia has had offers to leave during January, from both Spain and Turkey, but could yet stay and battle to win his place back.

"At the moment Wojciech is number one," Wenger said. "He has done nothing for me to take him out, but I can rotate the goalkeepers.

"In the cups I play sometimes different goalkeepers as well."

Wenger paid tribute to Almunia's dedication. "He is under contract and as long as he is at the club we are happy to have him," the Arsenal manager said.

"I like him as a man and as a player and I have shown that in my decisions. I am happy that he is here."

Wenger added: "Almunia has not played for a long, long time. I don't feel that any player is happy not to play."

Meanwhile, Mexico international Carlos Vela has joined West Brom on loan from Arsenal until the end of the season.

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