No messing about during Arsenal training: Lehmann

Jens Lehmann (far left) with Thierry Henry during an Arsenal training session back in 2006.
Jens Lehmann (left) with Thierry Henry during an Arsenal training session back in 2006.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Jens Lehmann, who played for Arsenal from 2003 to 2008, believes his former club's inability to challenge for the English Premier League title is down to a lack of ruthlessness from manager Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners' last title was won during the 2003-04 season when, with Lehmann in goal, they finished the entire campaign unbeaten.

Reflecting on his time in England, the 46-year-old German said: "When I was playing there, mentally it was very hard. You had to be very good. If you were not good, you could afford only one (more) bad game. After the second bad game, you were out."

Asked if Wenger is still as ruthless, Lehmann shrugged and said: "(But) he puts this rule on us. Only on us."

The former custodian would know. He was unceremoniously replaced by Manuel Almunia during the 2007-08 season after making mistakes in matches against Fulham and Blackburn.

Lehmann, who went back to Arsenal in 2011 to earn his coaching badges, also spoke about the competitiveness in the Gunners' squad during his time.

"In every training game, nobody wants to lose. There were fights every day, but it's not personal," he said. "I remember my first training session with Thierry (Henry). We had a game and he wasn't moving, so I said, 'Hey Thierry, move, run.'

"He said, 'What?', and I shouted again, and he was shouting back at me, and all of a sudden, the other guys were looking at us and they realised, 'There's no messing about here'."

With Wenger's contract ending next year, Lehmann, who has a Uefa Pro Licence, the highest qualification in Europe, did not want to say if his former boss should step down.

Instead, he said: "The club is very healthy economically. In that respect, he's really successful and well-liked by the owners because every year, they take part in the Champions League, and (the club) never needs to spend money on bonuses because they don't win anything."

Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'No messing about during Arsenal training: Lehmann'. Print Edition | Subscribe