Lehmann in line to start for Gunners?

When Arsenal confirmed the capture of former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann on a rolling monthly contract until the end of the season, many questioned Arsene Wenger’s decision to bring in a goalkeeper who has in the past publicly criticised his only other fit shot-stopper. For some Lehmann represents a disruptive influence, but for others there is certain logic to the Frenchman’s decision.

In bringing Lehmann back into his plans, Wenger not only adds an experienced former international into his squad, he is bringing in a player who has won both the Premier League and the FA Cup. That kind of know-how in what it takes come the business end of the season is vital simply to have around the dressing room, even if Lehmann is not involved in matters on the pitch. Considering the Gunners’ form before the international break and the ‘crisis of confidence’ many feel is brewing in their ranks, to have winners around the camp will do wonders for mentality of the more fragile members of the squad.

A goalkeeping error cost Arsenal dear in their last Premier League encounter which has created an added twist to the Lehmann deal with some believing he may be in line to start between the sticks at home to Blackburn on Saturday. Lehmann made his comeback for the Gunners this week in a reserve team match against Wigan; a 2-1 loss which was not without some nervy moments for the 41-year-old. Whether or not Wenger feels a Premier League start so soon will be conducive for a winning performance is something that remains to be seen, but there is no doubt he is facing somewhat of a dilemma.

If he were to drop Manuel Almunia following his mistake at West Brom and Lehmann were to put in an assured performance, this could kick start Arsenal into a run of form for the run in. However, if Lehmann were to struggle and make any form of error, the Arsenal boss may be dealing with his only two fit goalkeepers both lacking in confidence. If Almunia – a goalkeeper Wenger has reportedly lost patience with in the past – were to start, this again runs the risk of another costly error.

The problem may become somewhat clearer looking at Lehmann’s lack of match practice having retired from the game at the end of last season and not having played a top-level match since May 2010. Some may argue it would seem a little foolish to thrust him back into action at such an integral stage of the season. However, it is the ability to make such decisions correctly that may have a huge bearing on where the Premier League crown will be heading this season.

One thing is for certain, Blackburn will look to expose the lack of height in the Arsenal team at every opportunity and you can be sure Steve Kean has drilled into his men the rewards that could be gained from pressurising Arsenal’s six-yard-box, regardless of who starts in goal. The Gunners’ remaining fixtures see them face some tough fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Bolton and Stoke with a confident goalkeeper a must if they are to overhaul a six point deficit at the top of the table.

This years’ title race appears to be one of the most open in recent seasons with plenty of drama yet to unfold. Arsenal fans will be hoping their goalkeeping situation will remain steady and not turn into a running saga.

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