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He's Back, and We're All Winners

Written By Justin on Monday, March 14, 2011 | 11:32:00 PM

"I see no reason why I can't continue my excellence"

Let's dispense with the easy jokes, the video of his comical clash with fellow diva Didier Drogba, and the references to his very public, one-sided spat with teammate Manuel Almunia. Let's dispense with all that for the simple reason that Jens Lehmann's return to English football makes us all winners.

I'm not one of those who bemoans the modern game and claims everything was better back in the day. It's simply not true, for one thing, and makes you a bit of a bitter old fart, for another. But it's great to have Jens back, because the Premier League hasn't had a player of his unique personality since he left. Oh sure, we had our Jimmy Bullard moments, but he kept breaking in half. Phil Brown was briefly amusing, and this season, Ian Holloway has proven to be whatever the opposite of camera shy is. Harry Redknapp has indulged us by claiming (giggle) that there is no reason Spurs can't challenge for the title next season.

But with all the above, you get the feeling that it's a bit of an act. Jens Lehmann, my friends, is no actor (except for that thing he did with Drogba, but we aren't talking about that). Jens has not and will not pretend to be a "character" or "mad." Nor is he actually mad. He's simply that rare breed of person who says exactly what he's thinking and does exactly whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Toss an opponent's boot onto the roof of his net? Could someone please kindly explain why not?

Let's look at this from a footballing perspective. With both Fabianski and Szczesny finished for the season, Arsenal needed another goalkeeper as cover for Manuel Almunia. There are younger keepers about, and some who have played more recently than Jens's last game, back in June 2010. But in the event Almunia does indeed get injured - and unless Arsenal's luck changes, he will, and it will probably be Laurent Koscielny who injures him - they will have in Jens Lehmann a goalkeeper with title-winning experience and mentality. It's pretty easy to see that for all their talent, Arsenal are deficient in this category. Only Gael Clichy in this Arsenal team, once promising but now nervous and vulnerable, has won the title, and he was merely a bit player that season. Lehmann, conversely, was a critical component.

What about the derisive comments Jens directed at Almunia, you ask? To some degree, he set those right after he left, saying several times last year that he felt Manuel was the right man for the job. Whether this was good enough for the Spanaird is not for us to know, though you do feel Arsene Wenger wouldn't have made the move for Jens if his now-first team goalkeeper strenuously objected.

"I object. No, I strenuously object."

41 is, of course, no big deal for a goalkeeper. Edwin Van der Sar has been the best goalkeeper in the league since Christmas, or at least the best one in the race for the title, and he's 40. If Jens is pressed into duty, his lack of match fitness might be an issue, but he seems to have the kind of obstinate, jaw-jutting self-belief that the rest of his once-again teammates could really use right about now. It's just a shame he won't be seeing Drogba again.


MactheCatNo1 said...

Brilliant, really missed his character in the game.

Like you rightly said, what british football has missed past few years.

Plus a supremly confident keeper.