I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve absolutely had it with Jens Lehmann.
Most Arsenal supporters will be well aware of the trouble he has caused this season firstly with his two massive mistakes against Fulham and Blackburn and secondly with his absolute inability to keep his mouth closed about his opinion of goalkeeping rival Manuel Almunia.
For anyone who does not know the story I’ll run through it very quickly for you. Basically, after losing his place after the Blackburn blunder, Lehmann has sat on the bench with an apparent elbow injury (is it real or fake, we’ll probably never know…) while his Spanish understudy Almunia has started in every Premiership and Champions League match since. Despite performing quite well, Almunia has been consistently criticised as being an inferior player by Lehmann and the big German has remained adamament that once he became fit from the injury that might not even exist, he will slot back into the side. Now, after regaining fitness, he has reiterated that he expects Arsene Wenger to play him in Arsenal’s next game against Bolton.
In my eyes, there is only one solution to this problem, and that is to let Almunia continue in the starting side and keep Lehmann on the bench until either (a) Almunia makes a significant error or two or (b) Lehmann apologises for his comments. However, looking around at some other Arsenal blogs on the net in the past few days has shown me that not everybody agrees with this decision. When I have made a couple of comments on various blogs about Lehmann’s behaviour I’ve received some comments back saying that Almunia has been just as bad and that the German is worthy of his place.
Baring all this in mind, I decided to compile a whole lot of quotes from Lehmann and Almunia, as well as manager Arsene Wenger in an attempt to show you why I feel that there is no way that German should be brought back into the side until one of the two conditions I mentioned above is met. It all begins after the Blackburn game…
“Jens is out and he will miss two weeks, I think. Maybe more. I don’t know. He is going to see a specialist in Germany. He had this injury before but it has got much worse.”
Wenger’s comments following Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn, in which an awful blunder by Lehmann, his second is as many matches, costs the side the win.
“I feel I am the No.1 at Arsenal and Germany, although I know I have to train hard every day to justify this. I have not played recently because I could not play. If I am injured, then obviously another man plays. If he is a superman who stops everything, then I may not play again, but from experience, I know I have played constantly and I am not worried that I will not play again when I am fit.”
Two weeks out “injured” does not stop Lehmann believing he is still the number one goalkeeper at Arsenal.
“I am without a doubt mentally the strongest player at Arsenal because I have more experience. There will always be a keeper who will play better for two or three matches but I have never seen anyone do this for ten games. I know that I have an advantage at Arsenal and that I can keep it. I don’t see any young supermen keeping me out. I know I will be playing again at Arsenal. The coach will let me play. He knows it, and I know it – it doesn’t matter if I have another week out. I have read that Almunia said he deserves to be the No 1 but until now he has not won a single important game.”
Lehmann steps it up a notch, criticising Almunia and implying that he is a far better goalkeeper than his Spanish teammate.
Lehmann injures his elbow playing for Germany against Wales. Wenger is spared the decision of choosing between Almunia and Lehmann and the Spaniard subsequently continues in goal.
“I’m playing and I’m very focused on my job. I don’t care about other things. I cannot have my mind on other things. At the moment I am No.1. I have played a few games in a row, I am doing well and so is the team. I don’t think the boss should change anything because everything is OK. I have done nothing wrong and I am trying to keep my level high. I believe I am the best keeper now. I would like to play the whole season. Now I can really say I’m enjoying myself in London. I feel the No.1 spot is mine. I have to grab on to it with all my strength so it doesn’t escape me. This is my moment and I don’t intend to let it go.”
Almunia responds to Lehmann’s comments and indicates that he is enjoying his time as the club’s starting goalkeeper.
“I know I will play for Arsenal again and think it may well be in our next game. Maybe this break has been good for me. Maybe I needed it. I never like being out of the team, but look what happened last time. The manager left me out for a few weeks three years ago and when I got my place back, I ended up having the best season of my career. I feel ready to come back and play to the same level again. Playing is important, of course, but there is no substitute for quality.”
Lehmann suggests that he will return to the starting side for the Premiership clash with Bolton on October 20.
“It’s the first time I have not been playing and that is due to an elbow injury and Almunia has now said he is the better goalie. But if I join a team in which No.1 goalie has been the No 1 for years and also won titles and then I fail to perform, I find those remarks disrespectful.”
Lehmann criticises Almunia prior to the Germany-Ireland match.
“It was my first game after a couple of weeks and you never know how sharp you are and how focused and concentrated you are. I think I felt quite good and I performed quite well. I think I will play hopefully next week because I am fit now. I was injured, it was the first time since I am at Arsenal and I expect the boss to play me. Did you see me sitting on the bench once? I think some journalists are losing their intelligence about a couple of weeks. I have not spoken to him (Wenger) but I expect him to play me again, yes.”
After keeping a clean sheet for Germany against Ireland, Lehmann indicates that he expects to start Arsenal’s next match and stands firm with the story that he has been injured, rather than dropped.
The first thing you’ll notice about the above compilation is that during the whole time that Lehmann and Almunia have been bickering, it is the German who has spoken to the media on numerous occasions whilst the Spaniard has only opened his mouth once. And whilst the Spaniard’s comments suggested a sense of ambition and determination about the opportunity that has presented itself, a large portion of the German’s comments are purely provocative and derogatory.
Now, it’s probably worth me saying that I’ve always been a fan of Jens Lehmann. I’ve loved his crazy temperament and I think he was truly one of the best goalkeepers in the world at his peak. However, I strongly believe that this has now passed. Under different circumstances I would be more than happy for him to prove me wrong but the truth is that Almunia has done very well in his time in goals and this, coupled with Lehmann’s ridiculous comments, should be enough to see the German kept on the bench for the time being.
If Lehmann did return against Bolton it would be a massive kick in the teeth of Almunia, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave the club in January. As it is, I think one of the two goalkeepers will be on their way out of Arsenal when the transfer window opens and I really hope it is Lehmann. Not because of form or age but because it is obvious that his attitude does not fit in with a team that is built around encouragement and fairness towards others. I’m sorry Jens, for much as I loved you in the past, I think your time is almost up.
What do you think?
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