The Highs And Lows Of Jens Lehmann's First Spell At Arsenal: From The Invincible Goalkeeper To Seeing Red In A European Final

Former No.1 set for shock return to the Gunners.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger shocked many this week when reports emerged that he was looking to lure former keeper Jens Lehmann out of retirement until the end of the season for his second spell with the north London club.

The former Schalke, Milan, Dortmund and Stuttgart star would provide cover for Manuel Almunia after injuries to Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianksi and Vito Mannone left the Gunners with only two fit goalkeepers.

The German international joined the Gunners for the first time back in the summer of 2003 for £1.5 million from Borussia Dortmund and spent five seasons with the club.

He made 199 appearances, with only one as a substitute, and earned cult status with his solid performances and crazy temperament.

With the Gunners reportedly closing in on a deal which would see 41-year-old ease Wenger's goalkeeping crisis until the end of the season, Goal.com takes a look back at the highs and lows of his first spell with the club.

Highs

1. Invincible Lehmann

In the 2003-04 season Arsenal made history by becoming the first side since Preston North End in 1888-89 to go the entire league season unbeaten.

And Jens Lehmann, in his first season at the club since joining from Borussia Dortmund, played in all 38 games of the campaign.

While his bold style and hotheadedness led to one or two mistakes, the German played a key part in providing a solid defensive unit for Arsene Wenger's side.

The 'keeper made three appearances conceding just 26 goals as Arsenal won 26 games and drew 12 during the season.

They then went on to break the 42-match record for going unbeaten, which was previously held by Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest.

Lehmann played in 48 of Arsenal's 49 unbeaten run.

2. Penalty hero


Arguably his finest moment came in the 2006 Champions League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.

Leading 1-0 thanks to Kolo Toure's goal in the first leg, Arsenal rode their luck in keeping the scoreline to 0-0 at El Madrigal, but through sheer determination and a backs-to-the-wall mentality they were minutes from their first Champions League final.

All their hard work appeared to be for nothing though as two minutes from time Gael Clichy was adjudged to have brought down Jose Mari and the referee pointed to the spot.

It was Juan Roman Riquelme against Lehmann for a place in the final and it was the German who came out on top as he dived to his left and beat the spot-kick away.

Arsenal were in the final and Lehmann had kept a record 10 consecutive clean sheets in Europe, with the club not conceding a goal in 919 minutes of European football.

3. Record breaker

Arsenal made it all the way to the 2006 Champions League final and Jens Lehmann was instrumental as the Gunners becoming the first London club to make the final of the continent's premier competition.

While the final did not go entirely to plan for the German international, he was superb in his side's run to the Stade de France which included clean sheets against European giants Real Madrid and Juventus home and away.

He made one memorable double save against Real Madrid at Highbury from Spanish legend Raul. Not content with one stunning stop he sprawled back towards goal and clawed the ball away from the goal with his fingertips.

Throw in his heroics in the semi-final and he kept a record 10 consecutive clean sheets, with the club going 919 minutes without conceding.

Despite his sending off in the final his exploits in Arsenal's run to the showpiece event was enough to win him the title of Champions League goalkeeper of the year for the 2005-06 season.

He went 853 minutes without conceding a goal and the run was finally ended as Hamburg scored a consolation goal in the 89th minute of a 3-1 defeat to the Gunners in the 2006-07 group stage.

4. Cup king

Lehman is the last Arsenal goalkeeper to get his hands on some silverware, in the form of the FA Cup, and he played a big part in winning the trophy back in 2005.

Arsenal beat Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium in a penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes of goalless football and it was Lehmann who made it all possible, keeping out Paul Scholes' penalty effort.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side dominated the entire cup final and on another day would have won the famous old trophy easily but it ended being Arsenal and Lehmann's day as the German produced a man of the match display, producing a string of vital saves.

The decisive moment came as he dived full-length to his right to deny the former England international and after repelling a Manchester United onslaught for 120 minutes Arsenal had the trophy.

5. Farewell appearance


On May 4, 2008 Arsenal said a fond farewell to Lehmann after he bowed out in the 1-0 victory over Everton.

Lukasz Fabianski started the match but Wenger brought Lehmann on for the final 20 minutes of the encounter.

He was given a rousing reception as he entered the action and at the final whistle he was given a standing ovation for his efforts in north London over five seasons.

The fans, despite all his histrionics, were showing their thanks for a 'keeper who helped the club go unbeaten in a season.

The German bowed to the crowd and clapped them as he left the pitch for the final time in Arsenal colors and he will.

Lows

1. Seeing red

The German's short fuse but the biggest disappointment of his Arsenal career came when he was given a red card in the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona.

After 18 minutes in the Stade de France, Samuel Eto'o steamed through on goal and the keeper rushed out to meet him but brought the Cameroon international down.

Lehmann had denied a certain goalscoring opportunity, but after the incident the ball rolled to Ludovic Guily to find the back of the net.

Unfortunately for Lehmann the referee had already stopped play so the goal was chalked out and the Gunners were reduced to 10 men, with the German becoming the first player ever to be sent off in a European Cup final.

The confident German was a broken man and the pained look on his face told the story. Despite being a man short Wenger's side took the lead before half-time thanks to Sol Campbell's header and they held out for 75 minutes, until goals from Samuel Eto'o and Juilano Belletti won the trophy for the Catalan giants.

2. Sitting on the bench


In early 2008, a couple of high-profile mistakes from Lehmann saw the German lose his No.1 spot at Arsenal to Manuel Almunia.

In the first league game of the season, Lehmann made a serious error after just 52 seconds, allowing David Healy to score for Fulham. However, Lehmann's blushes were spared late in the game as Arsenal won 2–1. But in his second league match against Blackburn Rovers he fumbled a David Dunn shot to allow Blackburn to equalize, in a game that finished 1–1.

It was something he did not take kindly to and he spoke of his displeasure regularly, slighting his rival at every opportunity.

On one occasion he said of Almunia: "To be sitting on the bench behind somebody who only started to play when he was 30 is not funny."

Another time he spoke of his anger about the Spanish 'keeper getting the nod in the first team: "My coach confirmed to me my impression that he uses a different measuring stick to evaluate Almunia... when I see the performances on the field, I get angry and I have to clench my fist in my pocket."

Wenger stood firm though, and Lehmann sat on the bench for four months. And the German international could not accept his manager’s decision.

He said: "At the moment I'm just swallowing it all as part of the humiliation. That's something one has to take in. But I think - and this is aimed at my dear manager - one shouldn't humiliate players for too long."

The Gunners will be hoping Lehmann is true to his words and can bury the hatchet with his rival and be more inclined to sit on the bench in his second spell at the club.

3. Mad Jens


Throughout his time at Arsenal he was largely consistent but his career in north London did not come without a few 'mad moments'.

The German could always be found steaming off his line, fouling unnecessarily or playing a fancy pass and sometimes it was costly.

In his first season at the club, Lehmann was a vital part of the Invincibles side but it did not mean he was always solid as a rock.

When Arsenal were 2-1 up and ready to seal the title at Tottenham things took a turn for the worse as Lehmann, under no threat, decided to haul Robbie Keane down. The referee pointed to the spot and Spurs earned a draw.

It wasn't enough to sop Arsenal claiming the title but it caused panic in the Arsenal ranks as they held on for the point to see them crowned champions.

4. Lehmann vs Drogba


In 2007, the German clashed with Chelsea striker Didier Drogba off the ball and all of his characteristics came to the fore at once.

With the ball nowhere to be seen Lehmann, in yet another mad moment, decided to shove Drogba to the floor.

The Ivorian didn't take too kindly to this and decided to bump into Lehmann.

What followed was something that would not be lost on a West End stage as the German threw himself to the floor.

It was a moment that gained cult status with the Arsenal faithful but led to more than a few neutrals losing respect for the veteran goalie.

5. Disciplinary issues


Mad moments were a theme of Lehmann's career in London and in the 2006-07 season Lehman broke the record for the highest number of yellow cards for a goalkeeper in a single season.

The hot-tempered German collected eight yellow cards in a single season, cementing his reputation as a fiery character.

In his five seasons at the club he recorded 13 yellow cards and a sending-off.

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