SASoccermag.co.za looks back at the legends of the Premier League, and today features Jens Lehmann and his exploits in the 2003-2004 season.
Signed in 2003 from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of £1.5-million, German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was tasked with the job of replacing outgoing Arsenal legend David Seaman, after 13 seasons as the London club’s No 1. At Lehmann’s unveiling, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger told the media: ‘I’m very pleased to get him because we have found exactly what we wanted.’
Even Wenger would be surprised at how quickly the experienced No 1 would take to life in England. Lehmann cemented his place in the team and would play a key role in Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ as the Gunners finished their league campaign unbeaten, becoming only the second side to achieve the feat after Preston North End in 1888.
Lehmann’s contribution was never more important than in the sixth game of the league, against Manchester United, with his side drawing 0-0 at the time and Martin Keown having conceded a late penalty. Lehmann did enough to put striker Ruud van Nistelrooy off his stride as the Dutch striker missed his penalty, ensuring Arsenal a point in the now infamous ‘Battle of Old Trafford’.
The Gunners stormed to the league title with a final total of 90 points, a staggering 11 points ahead of second-placed Chelsea, while Leicester City, Leeds and Wolves were relegated to the Championship. Lehmann’s teammate, Thierry Henry, finished as the league’s top goal-scorer with 30 goals, eight more than Newcastle legend Alan Shearer.
Despite impressing in his first season, Lehmann was always prone to rash mistakes and the next season saw him lose his place to Spanish goalkeeper Manuel Almunia. Over the next few seasons, Lehmann’s tendency to make costly errors would hamper his status as the No 1 goalkeeper in the side before Wenger ultimately allowed him a move back to the Bundesliga, with Stuttgart keen on his services.
Lehmann retired after the 2009-10 season, but he made one last appearance for Arsenal after being brought out of retirement to assist the North London club in 2011 after they suffered a goalkeeper crisis.
He hung up his boots for good in June 2011.
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