Stepping up into the frame to replace an Arsenal legend like David Seaman may seem like an impossible task but it is one that Jens Lehmann did spectacularly, becoming a Gunners legend in his own right.
The Germany international signed for the Gunners in 2003 from Borussia Dortmund following the exit of Seaman and immediately provided an impact in Arsene Wenger’s side, playing a key-part in a historic season.
Lehmann’s first campaign in the Premier League saw Arsenal lift the league title without losing a single game, with the Gunners conceding 26 goals in 38 games as they enjoyed an unbeaten run that eventually stretched to 49 league matches.
The following season saw a dip in form, which led to Manuel Almunia often getting the nod between the sticks, but Lehmann fought back in the second half of the campaign following speculation that he could be replaced at the end of the season.
In the 2005 FA Cup final against Manchester United in Cardiff, Lehmann put in a Man of the Match performance as the Gunners defeated the Red Devils 5-4 on penalties – where he crucially saved Paul Scholes’ effort from the spot.
The following season, Arsenal’s last at Highbury, saw Lehmann star as the Gunners charged to the Champions League final in Paris – achieving a remarkable defensive feat along the way by securing clean sheets in ten consecutive matches.
Lehmann went 853 minutes without conceding a goal in the Champions League, breaking the record previously held by Edwin Van der Sar, and was named in the Team of the Tournament – although it ended in disappointment in Paris, where Arsenal lost 2-1 to Barcelona as Lehmann was sent off after just 18 minutes.
In the first season at the Emirates Stadium, Lehmann remained first choice between the posts but lost his spot in 2007-08 to Almunia after two high-profile errors in the opening two games of the Premier League campaign.
Despite those errors, and the red card in Arsenal’s only Champions League final appearance in history, Lehmann is remembered as one of the finest goalkeepers at the club and played a pivotal role in two proud moments in Gunners history – the unbeaten season and the advance to the European final.
In fact, the decades since Lehmann’s departure have seen Arsenal crying out for a new top-class goalkeeper as numerous players failed to make the jersey their own – including Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny, David Ospina and even Petr Cech, who arrived at the club from Chelsea well established as a Premier League legend.
Heading into the 2018-19 season under Unai Emery, Arsenal have a Germany international to select between the sticks once again after signing Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen – and fans will hope he can enjoy the success that Lehmann did.
Lehmann did return to Arsenal for a short stint in 2011 following an injury crisis, where he made his 200th appearance for the club. He was also an assistant coach in the 2017-18 season before his departure was confirmed in June following Emery’s appointment.
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