Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday August 20 2007
After bringing painful new meaning to the phrase 'dropping points', the accusatory spotlight shines with poignant focus upon Jens Lehmann today. The goals against column next to Arsenal's name points to two goals conceded this season, both of which emanated from high profile errors from our mainstay between the sticks. With a seemingly rejuvenated Almunia enjoying some sterling performances in Arsenal's cup runs last season and a talented young upstart in Fabianski signed in the summer, most are of the opinion that it's time to shuttle Jens off to the post office with his pension.
My favourite footballing quote of all time has to be one of one in Brian Clough's literati of gems, 'football is a simple game made complicated by idiots.' Whilst this certainly rings with truth in an one the pitch sense, the game has altered sufficiently for this comment to become partially redundant. Football management has become complicated by blanket media coverage, with it's obnoxious, yet addictive, 24 hour news channels scrutinising every decision. Players' egos are swelled in accordance with increased exposure and lucrative sponsorship deals. Who could forget adidas' dismay when the erection of a hugely expensive Oliver Kahn billboard was accompanied by the news that he had been usurped by Jens as the motherland's gatekeeper? Contrary to the musings of Adam Ant, ridicule is something very much to be feared.
On the surface of it, with two hungry goalkeepers snapping voraciously at Jens' heels, and Lehmann approaching 38, the decision to drop him after costly errors appears cut and dry. If a striker repeatedly misses sitters, you bench him right? But is the situation really that straightforward? Dropping Lehmann now could completely shatter his already fragile confidence. It could also radiate the wrong message to the players with detrimental effects. There are benefits to wielding an iron fist and not tolerating errors, erradicating the prospect of complacency. But Wenger has spoken recently about his young side acquiring the balance between relaxation and focus. Dropping Jens could inhibit the players, knowing that errors will automatically result in exclusion could prevent a team based on fluency and movement from expressing themselves, nerves usually equate to a conservative approach which could damage Arsenal in the long run. The psycholigical ramifications of such a decision are more complex under analysis.
On the other hand, with Fabianski having been signed in the summer, and Almunia proving to be an able deputy, both will feel that if they do not get their opportunity now, that they are probably wasting their time at Arsenal and we risk disenchanting our long term future between the sticks. There is also the question of our back four. Firstly, do they still trust Jens? Remove the two errors, and Jens' general play has been extremely good. He has dealt comfortably with crosses and made some smart saves. With Gallas now out for the next three weeks, Arsenal are shorn of their leader, Wenger spoke about Jens' role with regard to his seniority and one wonders if he will take another senior member of the side away from our backline.
My own view is that Jens' all round play has been good enough for him to warrant another chance. Of course this is a risk, another error against City could damage our quest for honours. But I believe Jens is a mentally strong enough character to deal with this setback. Of course, only the players and the manager will know whether his mental condition is sound enough to play. (It is only on reflection of this sentence that I realise the unintentional humour)! I think Fabregas summed it up nicely with a call to arms, we are a team, we win together, we lose together. I do not think Wenger will drop Lehmann at this stage of the season, had these errors occured in March, we might have seen the new era ushered in. Similarly, we do not want to see a Seaman repeat with a fantastic goalkeeper continuing past his sell by date. But I believe in Jens sufficiently for him to be afforded the chance to prove himself. I think he will relish it, but he must be mindful of those snapping at his heels. Hopefully, this will strengthen his resolve. I suspect this is the way Wenger will go. Your thoughts?LD.
Date:Monday August 20 2007
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