Lehmann in line for recall after Wenger leaves Almunia hanging

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger revealed Manuel Almunia was left hurt by his blunder in Arsenal's last Premier League outing at West Bromwich Albion but refused to confirm whether he would now axe the Spanish goalkeeper in favour of veteran Jens Lehmann.

Almunia, 33, was thrust back into the first team following a finger injury to Wojciech Szczesny in the Nou Camp, which saw the young Pole join Lukasz Fabianski on the sidelines and would lead to Lehmann answering Wenger's SOS to come out of retirement at 41.

However, despite performing well in what turned out to be a 3-1 defeat against Barcelona which ended Arsenal's Champions League ambitions for another season, Almunia then left himself open to criticism after a terrible mix-up with stand-in centre-back Sébastien Squillaci at The Hawthorns which allowed the relegation-battlers to take a 2-0 lead. While the Gunners eventually fought back to salvage a draw, it has again put focus on who will be between the posts when domestic action resumes against Blackburn at the Emirates Stadium on 2 April.

Arsenal now trail Manchester United by five points, albeit with a match in hand ahead of their 1 May showdown, and as such would be champions if they win their remaining nine fixtures. However, Wenger knows there can no longer be any margin for error as he prepares to take the tough decisions necessary to ensure a season which promised so much does not again fail to deliver.

"What can you say? The player knows it was the wrong decision," Wenger said. "In big games, it hurts because that was a massive game and it hurts him."

On whether he would now make a change, Wenger stressed: "I do not want to make a public debate of that. I believe for every game you consider three days before the game who will play in the next match."

Lehmann and Almunia were among a handful of senior players still at London Colney during the international break. Wenger hopes captain Cesc Fabregas, midfielder Alex Song and England forward Theo Walcott will all have recovered full match-fitness over the fortnight.

Arsenal will be well represented when England take on Wales in Cardiff tomorrow, with Jack Wilshere expected to be involved as Aaron Ramsey leads his country out for the first time.

Striker Nicklas Bendtner looks set to feature for Denmark against Norway having suffered a scare this week when he needed an ice pack on his ankle. Wenger believes a change of scene could do his squad good after a testing spell which saw them lose the Carling Cup final, go out of Europe and then the FA Cup at Old Trafford.