Lehmann: Wenger doesn't trust ex-players as coaches
Lehmann says Arsenal boss doesn't want ex-players who are 'big characters' to return to club as coaches
Jens Lehmann is a name that evokes fond memories among Arsenal fans.
The German goalkeeper made 199 appearances during a five-year spell with the Gunners, and was an ever-present member of "The Invincibles", who went unbeaten in the 2003/04 Premier League season.
His penalty saves clinched them the FA Cup in 2005 and helped them to their first and only Champions League final the following year.
But Lehmann, like his other former teammates, never got the opportunity to be part of manager Arsene Wenger's coaching staff.
Last month, Wenger was criticised by Arsenal supporters for rejecting club legend and record goal-scorer Thierry Henry's offer to coach the club's youth team for free.
The former France striker was last week announced as Belgium's assistant coach to Roberto Martinez.
Wenger also previously told "Invincibles" skipper Patrick Vieira that there was no room at the club for him as a coach, and the former midfield powerhouse joined Premier League rivals Manchester City's set-up instead.
Vieira is now in charge of the New York Red Bulls in the Major League Soccer in the United States.
When The New Paper asked Lehmann, who is in Singapore as part of the German Bundesliga Legends Tour, for his opinion on the matter, the 46-year-old said: "Yes, they gave me the opportunity to coach the Under-21s and Under-19s (to complete coaching badges), and I enjoyed it.
"Thierry has done the same. Sol Campbell as well. Freddie Ljungberg. Patrick Vieira has done it at City."
TNP probed further by asking the German if there was ever a chance of him coaching at Arsenal.
"No," was the sharp response.
Did you not want to?
"Arsene doesn't want to have ex-players (as coaches)," explained Lehmann.
Has he ever explained to you why not?
"No," answered the German matter of factly.
Is that Wenger's style?
"Well, the players I've mentioned... They're strong characters," added Lehmann, with a knowing smile.
Lehmann, who will reunite with his ex-Arsenal teammates such as Henry, Ljungberg and manager Wenger, for an Arsenal Legends match against their AC Milan counterparts at the Emirates Stadium this Saturday, arrived at Arsenal in 2003 with an impressive CV.
Before that, he had won the Uefa Cup with Schalke (1996/97) and the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund (2001/02).
But his most memorable achievement would come at Arsenal as part of "The Invincibles" in their unbeaten 2003/04 Premiership campaign.
Surprisingly, Arsenal haven't won the league since.
Supporters have often criticised Wenger for his reluctance to spend big in the transfer market.
Asked about his former club's transfer policy, Lehmann took a dig at his former manager.
Said Lehmann, who was also coaxed out of retirement to temporarily solve an Arsenal goalkeeping crisis in 2011: "When I was at the club, Arsene said to me, 'When you sign players late, they cost more'.
"And it means you haven't done your homework properly, because you should have signed the players early.
"Now, all of a sudden, he signs on the last days of the transfer window. So, hmm..."
Lehmann also said that he could empathise with out-of-favour Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
The 61-capped former Germany international said: "I was in Joe Hart's shoes. When I was in Arsenal, I was dropped after we lost two games, after nearly 50 games (before that).
"And Wenger said, 'I think you're too old'.
"Well, I started to argue with him and changed a little bit.
"And, all of a sudden, I looked young enough to play again."
After a pause, Lehmann added: "Joe Hart is close to 30 now. It's up to him if he wants to fight (to regain his No. 1 spot).
"The biggest challenge is if he wants to improve on certain technical aspects.
"If he can do that, he can play. If not, he will be out."
Well, the players I’ve mentioned ... They’re strong characters.
— Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Lehmann, on Wenger denying former players like Vieira and Henry a coaching role at the club