Lehmann puts strong case for his own defence

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The Independent Football

Jens Lehmann said yesterday that he was a better goalkeeper than Manuel Almunia and should be restored as Arsenal's first-choice. The 35-year-old German also said that he was surprised at having been dropped in the first place and that he was not sure what he had done wrong.

Jens Lehmann said yesterday that he was a better goalkeeper than Manuel Almunia and should be restored as Arsenal's first-choice. The 35-year-old German also said that he was surprised at having been dropped in the first place and that he was not sure what he had done wrong.

Lehmann, who played in the FA Cup against Stoke City on Sunday, also implied that he would consider his Highbury future if he is not selected for the champions Premiership match against Bolton Wanderers this weekend - even though the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has already made clear that Almunia will play.

"We will see what happens next Saturday," Lehmann said. "Then I might give an interview next week, I don't know." He has 18 months left on his contract and has attracted interest from the Bundesliga, with Stuttgart the latest club linked to making a bid. Wenger has also said he does not expect Lehmann to stay if he is not first choice, especially with the World Cup in Germany next year.

Lehmann, however, insisted that he wanted to remain at Arsenal. "I like it here," he said. "I came here for three years and I can still win three trophies here, even this season. I don't want to go before [three years is up]. There's no reason for me to go. I'm very convinced that I will play soon."

Lehmann, who was dropped after a series of mistakes, said he had never doubted himself. "What should I doubt?" he said. "I came here and became an unbeaten champion. Do you know anyone else who has done that? Of course I was surprised [to be left out]. But what had I done? At this club, every goal against is blamed on the goalkeeper. But football is about comparison. If the boss can find someone who never makes the slightest mistake on a goal then he should sign him, but that would be very hard."

Lehmann insisted that he was better than 27-year-old Almunia, who had been his under-study until last month. "Of course [I am]," he said. "Ask him [Almunia], though. He might think the same. He's had a couple of games and I've made, I think, 80. If you judge me on my mistakes, the ratio speaks for me, compared to other goalkeepers on this island."

But he added: "It's up to the boss to judge and he's already done so. That's why I'm not playing. Here, every goal is the mistake of the goalkeeper."

Lehmann insisted that none of the goals he had conceded were due to "typical goalkeeping mistakes". "I have lost the ball outside the penalty area sometimes. That is down to my very risky game. As a coach, you must decide - do you play such a keeper, where you benefit from the whole team being able to play up front, or do you not?"

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