Lehmann keen to lend Arsenal a hand
With Lukasz Fabianski sidelined until the end of the season because of a shoulder problem and Wojciech Szczesny suffering an injured finger during the UEFA Champions League defeat to Barcelona, Manuel Almunia has been left as the only fit senior keeper within Arsene Wenger's squad. Given Vito Mannone, who also has first-team experience, has been hampered by a thigh problem while on loan at Hull, the Gunners boss has elected to ask Lehmann to return to the club he left in 2008.
Lehmann, 41, played for two seasons at Stuttgart before hanging up his gloves and has since worked in the German media, which saw him at the Nou Camp last Tuesday night. The veteran was part of the 'Invincibles' team which won the Premier League title in 2003/04, and has been in regular touch with Arsenal during his recent stay in England working on coaching badges.
While a deal is not yet complete, Lehmann, who would be signed as a free agent, could be in contention to make the squad for Saturday's Premier League trip to struggling West Brom. Speaking to German newspaper Bild, Lehmann said: "Arsenal currently have a goalkeeping crisis and I jumped at the chance to help them."
Lehmann - who was sent off in the 2006 Champions League final defeat against Barcelona - is likely to provide experienced cover for Almunia, renewing the pair's often difficult relationship when they battled it out for the number one spot. The return of the legendarily eccentric keeper will certainly be a boost to the morale of a squad which has been tested to the limit in recent weeks, suffering League Cup final heartache at Wembley, then crashing out of both Europe in Barcelona and the FA Cup at Manchester United.
Nevertheless, Arsenal's Premier League destiny remains very much in their own hands with ten games to go, as they trail leaders United by just three points, but with a match in hand ahead of their crunch showdown at the Emirates Stadium on 1 May. Some 9,000 Gunners fans had made the journey to Old Trafford on Sunday, many of whom had also just returned from a bitterly disappointing midweek trip to Spain.
Wenger has called for the supporters to continue to try to lift his battle-weary side on the pitch when they return to league action at The Hawthorns. "The fans were absolutely amazing, and we need them at West Brom now," Wenger said. "Hopefully they keep cheering us and keep the morale as well because we have to support each other now in that final part of the season, because it is a vital part."
Centre-back Johan Djourou is out for the rest of the campaign after dislocating his shoulder at Old Trafford, while midfielder Alex Song (knee) is not expected to make the West Brom game. Captain Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) and England winger Theo Walcott (ankle) are both also big-name absentees.