Days after a humiliating defeat which called the mentality and desire of our players into question, the Arsenal website couldn’t have selected a more convenient guest for their Lockdown podcast then Jens Lehmann.
Even when going a season unbeaten and winning an FA Cup, the keeper wouldn’t be shy pointing out to his teammates if he felt standards were not being met. So imagine how he would have reacted if he were in that dressing room on Sunday?
Here are 10 Things We Learnt In Lockdown With Jens Lehmann (part 1)
He Wasn’t Threatened By Seaman’s Legacy
He had already planned his eventual route to English Football.
He returned to Germany from Milan still with the ambition of wanting to succeed abroad. He claims to always keeping his eye on David Seamen’s situation at Arsenal realising the legend wasn’t getting any younger. The moment it became clear Seamen wasn’t renewing his contract, Lehmann ordered his representatives to get on the phone to North London.
Where some may have felt the pressure of replacing a legend, the German has a unique thought process. In his mind Seaman had been at Highbury for over a decade so it was impossible to be more popular with Gooners. So why worry about it?
Arsenal Wanted Canizares
Never shy to claim if he thought he was better than someone, Lehmann stopped short of disrespecting Canizares when a scout leaked to him that Arsene Wenger had chosen the Valencia keeper to be his number one. Feeling that he was taller and more suited to English Football, Lehmann got himself a phone interview with Mr Wenger and talked himself into a job
Naturally, English Culture was going to differ to Germany.
In one of his first trips to Highbury, Lehmann found himself stuck in London traffic. He stressed out, as in his home country lateness was seen as a sin and a sign of disrespect. So he was pleasantly surprised when he showed up late and no one cared less. Zero fine, no reprimand, not a single person even acknowledged it. He was simply told by a member of staff, ‘if you ever think you’re going to be late to the meeting point, just drive to the London hotel yourself’.
Where it was too relaxed for his liking was in training. One of the first things he did was order his goal keeping coach to take away crash mats that were trying to prevent injuries
Bizarre Friendship With Graham Stack
It says a lot about his outlook that Lehmann claims his friendship with Stack was born out of his understudy’s understanding who the number 1 was. Injuries meant that Stack had been promoted to number 2 but in his own podcast he admitted his limitations. He was happy to take a pay check essentially getting Lehmann ready for every weekend. While that leaves you questioning Stack’s ambition, it was a partnership behind the scenes that led to our success.
Bit Of A Loner?
Known for being eccentric and having a brilliant dry sense of humour, it might not surprise you to hear Lehmann wasn’t the most popular in the dressing room. On one of his first away trips he simply sat in the nearest empty seat he could find. For the whole journey those next to him chatted in French to each other (rude!). So the keeper decided he should seek out Bergkamp as they would have something in common. The Dutch and Germany rivalry…
Wenger Ruins His Big Night
This is counter evidence to the notion that Mr Wenger was soft on his players. Arsenal had drawn 2-2 at Spurs, the result we needed to become Champions. Despite knowing that he had won another title, our manager was too preoccupied seething over Spurs’ s equaliser, a result of our keeper shoving Keane to the ground. Wenger was angry as he had warned his goalie all season that his temper would cost him. He gave him such a verbal lashing that Lehmann stormed down the tunnel. It wasn’t until the squad were back at the hotel that his boss conceded Keane had dived (not sure he did?)
Didn’t know he Was Champion
In the famous images of our players celebrating winning the League at the Lane, you don’t immediately see Lehmann or Sol Campbell involved. They were back in the dressing room sulking about the nature of Spurs’ equaliser. I always heard Sol waited for the home fans to leave based on security advice, but Lehmann claims they were in the middle of a row when a member of staff asked, ‘You know we won the League?’ The keeper said he was so emotional about conceding the penalty he momentarily forgot Chelsea had lost earlier in the day.
Blames Viera For End Of Streak
To this day, Lehmann won’t forgive the ref for not seeing Wayne Rooney’s obvious dive which ended our undefeated run at 49. Lehmann though claims he had done his homework and knew exactly what kind of penalty Van Nistelroy was going to take. At the last moment Viera whispered ‘he knows you know‘ so at the last second Lehmann second guesses himself and went the other way
Doesn’t Rate English Officials
To this day the player feels that English Officials didn’t understand the game, especially how a modern keeper played was changing. This resulted in a Premiership record, 8 yellow cards for a goalie in one season. Lehmann suggests the turning point may have occurred when Chelsea went to Reading and had both of their keepers injured due to serious blows to the head. Since, he feels keepers have had more protection
Jose Stops Him In Street
I always picture there is a hidden part of London where the rich people live that us common people are banned from. I have walked round the capital yet I’ve never seen Jose Mourinho just casually stroll out of a hairdressers. That’s what happened one afternoon when Lehmann was walking across the road. He was stopped by Jose and thanked for his comments in support of Cech and insistence that keepers needed protecting.
Part 2 is next Tuesday on Arsenal.com.
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