Big Jens backs Gunners title challenge and the genius of Le Boss

By Avenell Dave

The football world is full of idle boasting and vacuous comments, declarations of intent and idle chitchat.

There are few players from the modern era who say it as it is, who make sense and surprise you with their honesty.

Jens Lehmann is one of those players and thanks to the folks at Laureus, the Sport for Good Foundation that uses sport to help disadvantaged children around the world, Lehmann, who is an ambassador, has spoken with Addict and a couple of other blogs to chew the fat about Arsenal, where he is currently training to get his pro licences.

Lehmann believes the German internationals at Arsenal have done a lot to galvinse the team and given that Per Mertesacker has played in a defence which has conceded just one Premier League goal and Lukas Podolski has scored a couple and taken English football in his stride, I'm not going to argue. He even thinks we have a real shot at the title this year.

Lehmann said: "No one thinks we are contenders for the title but Arsenal could win it this season. Now with Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker they have two German players who are very experienced because of their caps in the national team of Germany, I think they’re near 100 and still at a young age.  They bring some German mentality into the side which is based on discipline, work ethics and performances.

"Arsenal always had a great approach, they always made it into the top four with probably the smallest budget of all the big teams now, and so why should it not happen this year that all of a sudden, when nobody expects them to win something, all of a sudden they go on to win something."

As you would imagine of someone whose job it was to keep goals out, the former Germany international is full of praise for the new defensive resilience: "You can already see that there is some progress in that department.  And I hope that there will be a good balance between Arsene’s offensive mind and probably Steve Bould and Neil Banfield’s secure tactics which actually wins you trophies.  And so I’m quite optimistic about the current season and hope of course that Arsenal will win something."

And Lehmann doesn't blame the club for selling RvP in the summer despite the uproar that decision provoked in some fans.

"At the moment they are making responsible decisions.  When you see Robin Van Persie, when you see that a player wants to leave for money reasons and probably because he thinks that somewhere else it is easier to win, you have to let him go, particularly when he has only one year on his contract, and when he played the first season without an injury in eight or nine years, so that was an extraordinary season for Robin. And then to make a decision: do we keep him or do we let him go?

"The future will tell us, and what will come into place next year with the financial fair play rule. Then we will see how these rules actually come into place for clubs like Chelsea, Man City, who are spending beyond the budget and then it could turn out that clubs like Arsenal all of a sudden are far ahead of those clubs."

Given his ignominious rejection by Arsene Wenger, an ill-advised decision by Le Boss it's fair to say, you wouldn't blame Big Jens for being bitter about the way his original reign ended.

This is the guy, after all, who went his debut season unbeaten and then helped to get us to the Champions League.

It says much about how Wenger treats his players that Lehmann bears no ill will towards his former manager.

"Arsene Wenger is a coach who does not only inspire you on the pitch but as well off the pitch, because when you talk to him you are always finding it very exciting and you are always getting some great information about some other things in life," said Lehmann.  

"I think that makes a great coach as well.  And he made Arsenal, he bought and sold so many players with a fantastic financial track record, that actually the new stadium and everything he has built comes down to him and to his performance.  

"So I quite enjoyed working for him, whereas at times it was psychologically very, very demanding, and I still had to recover from that even years after.

"He just took me out after my second defeat on English soil, and that, for a guy who came there with his family and brought his whole life over to England, and being faced with the possibility to move somewhere again with the children, it was quite challenging.  

"I was arguing with him quite often, particularly when he took me out of goal, but then after 20 minutes of arguments we would talk for another half an hour on private things, very smooth and relaxed, so there was always a professional relationship and a private one, and the private one is still very good right now, and quite fortunately because I’m doing my coaching licence at Arsenal, and so I’m looking over his shoulder and they let me train the reserves sometimes and the Under 18s, which is a big gesture, and I really appreciate that."

Lehmann is the patron of a Laureus football project in Germany, one of their most recently-appointed ambassadors to use sport to help young people and he is proud of his contribution. He concluded: "Everybody knows when you donate something to Laureus it’s given for something good, and that’s what actually makes the reputation and when you see the amount of ambassadors and where they are all coming from, from all kinds of sports, and former world class athletes, you see how great, how fantastic a foundation Laureus is."

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