Arsenal confirm return of Jens Lehmann
Thursday 17 March 2011
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident returning goalkeeper Jens Lehmann can help to get the best out of Manuel Almunia after the former Germany international officially returned to the club tonight.
Veteran German Lehmann, 41, has rejoined his old club to aid the Gunners' injury crisis which has seen keepers Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny and Vito Mannone all sidelined.
The rolling monthly deal, until the end of the season, was completed in time for Lehmann to take his place on the substitutes' bench at West Brom on Saturday.
Lehmann said: "I'm very excited to be rejoining Arsenal.
"I have kept myself fit since the end of last season and I'm ready to contribute at any time for the team. I have many great memories from my previous time at the club and Arsenal has always had a place in my heart.
"It's special to be coming back. I can't wait to start working with the team again and I look forward to contributing as much as I can, both on and off the pitch during this time."
Lehmann - part of the Invincibles side of 2003/04 - will bring some much-needed experience to the dressing room, but the move will also resurrect his often fractious relationship with Almunia.
At the height of the acrimony between the two, Almunia went as far as claiming: "To have someone here who hates me is just amazing. I know he hates me."
The pair battled bitterly for the number one spot before Lehmann left in the summer of 2008, but Wenger insists the duo can work in harmony as his Arsenal squad look to salvage their season by winning the league title.
"There has been much more said about that [relationship] than what happened. There is a lot of respect between the two goalkeepers," said Wenger.
"I think Jens Lehmann will get the best out of Almunia, because he will show him every day he is ready to fight for his place - as he has always been. Almunia will be motivated by that."
Wenger had no hesitation in moving for Lehmann, who had been working in the media since his retirement and was set to begin his coaching badges with a stint at Arsenal's Hertfordshire base before the SOS call came.
"We have no cover with any experience at all in the Premier League, that's why I want to get Jens back to cover Almunia and to give us some experience," Wenger said.
"I am happy about it because when Jens is in training he is as motivated as ever.
"You know him, I know him and he will help the team if he has to play, if I choose to play him, or on a daily basis his huge motivational level and experience will be vitally important."
Despite the boost of Lehmann's unexpected return, Arsenal have plenty of other fitness worries.
Alex Song, captain Cesc Fabregas and England winger Theo Walcott are all still sidelined, with Wenger suggesting the latter had "no chance" of featuring during the international break.
Centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, meanwhile, is not expected to feature again this season as he recovers from an Achilles problem, while Johan Djourou will be out for at least six weeks after dislocating his shoulder in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Manchester United.
Belgium international Vermaelen last played for Arsenal in late August, but has had many setbacks.
Wenger said: "He is not out on the field yet and it is impossible [for him to play] after six months without competition.
"I am confident he will have a full recovery, but for this season we cannot rely on him."
The Swiss FA had suggested Djourou could be in line for a swift recovery. Wenger confirmed the 24-year-old was set for exploratory keyhole surgery, but indicated there was a "little chance" the defender could be back in action before the end of the campaign.
"He has an arthroscopy on Monday and we will know more about the damage in his shoulder," Wenger said.
"We hope we will have good news, but no matter what happens he will be out for six weeks."
Arsenal could certainly do with a lift given the disappointment of the last fortnight, which saw them lose the Carling Cup final at Wembley before crashing out of Europe to Barcelona and the FA Cup at Old Trafford.
However, the fact remains that if the Gunners win all of their remaining 10 Premier League fixtures, they will be crowned champions on May 22.
"The atmosphere has not been at the highest level I have known here," Wenger said.
"But we have so much to go for which must be much bigger than our disappointment."
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