ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has risked dressing-room unrest by calling on the combustible veteran former Gunners goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to solve his injury crisis.
Lehmann, 41, is set to come out of retirement and rejoin the north London club on a short-term deal as backup to Manuel Almunia, their only fit senior stopper, in one of the most unexpected moves of the season.
The German hung up his gloves last summer, two years after leaving Arsenal, where he helped the so-called Invincibles win the 2003-04 Premier League title without losing a match.
But while eccentric Lehmann has undoubted pedigree, he notoriously fell out with Almunia, the understudy who ultimately replaced him, to his chagrin.
Lehmann described it as a “humiliation” when he lost the No1 spot to Almunia early in the 2007-08 season, while the Spaniard said in April 2008: “I know he hates me.”
Lehmann’s return risks reopening old wounds at a time when Almunia is already fragile, having been dropped and then shunned for months but now reinstated following injuries to Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny.
Arsenal, who can sign Lehmann outside the transfer window because he is a free agent, held talks with him yesterday and hope to complete his signing before Saturday’s trip to West Brom.
HIGHS AND LOWS | LEHMANN
1988 Makes debut for Schalke
1997 Shootout hero in Uefa Cup final
1998 Begins ill-fated spell at AC Milan
1999 Returns to homeland with Borussia Dortmund, wins Bundesliga in 2001-02
2003 Joins Arsenal and plays every game of Invincibles season, also wins 2005 FA Cup but is dropped in 2007-08
2008 Joins Stuttgart, retires in 2010