Lehmann battles for recall

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The Independent Football

Jens Lehmann has responded to a summer deadline from the German national team to regain his Arsenal place by insisting that he deserves a recall ahead of Manuel Almunia, who recently replaced him as the Gunners' first choice goalkeeper.

"I am convinced that I will play again soon," Lehmann said. "While watching matches, I cannot see that Almunia is better than me."

The experienced international was stunned to be dropped by Arsène Wenger last month, having paid the price for the side's defensive frailty as they struggled to recover from their Old Trafford defeat. Although Almunia looked shaky at first, the Spaniard has since grown in confidence, having conceded just one goal in his last four games.

There seems little chance of Wenger making another switch in his first-choice goalkeeper just yet and that has put Lehmann's international place in jeopardy.

After coming within touching distance of displacing his rival Oliver Kahn from the German side, Lehmann will not be considered again without his Arsenal place. Moreover, the Germany goalkeeping coach Andy Kopke has warned that the country's first-choice keeper for the 2006 World Cup finals needs to be playing regular club football by the start of next season.

"Whoever wants to play in the 2006 World Cup in Germany has to have a regular place in their team at the start of next season," he said.

Lehmann must now consider whether to persevere at Highbury or to seek a fresh challenge back in Germany, with a number of Bundesliga clubs said to be interested in him. He has so far indicated that he is determined to fight for his first-team place at Arsenal, having been at the club for just 18 months following his signing from Borussia Dortmund.

However, Jogi Low, the assistant to the German national coach Jürgen Klinsmann, called upon Wenger to clarify Lehmann's long-term position.

"If Jens isn't playing in the longer term, Wenger should be honest to him. He should tell him what he really plans to do. Jens deserves that," Low said.

¿ Stefan Reuter has resigned as director of football at struggling Borussia Dortmund. The 1997 European Cup winners, who are fighting record debts and losses, are 14th in the Bundesliga.

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