The Importance Of Lehmann + Football’s Most Impotent Punishment

It’s official then. Mad Jens has come out of retirement and is back at Arsenal on a short-term deal till the end of the season. Will it turn out to be a masterstroke, a disaster, or be irrelevant in the title race? That is the question.

I’ve seen a broad range of opinions covering pretty much every possibility.

Those craving for a leader in the dressing room will be happy, at least for now. Lehmann obviously brings the experience of being a winner. He also brings an impeccable work ethic and an insatiable desire to succeed. Those are tremendous qualities to have in a football dressing room no doubt. Then there are added factors like his love for and history with Arsenal, his relationships with some of the senior players, and the fact that Arsene knows his strengths and weaknesses in detail.

At the other end of the spectrum one might say that Jens has been out of the game for a while, is 41 years old, has virtually no match fitness, and he was known as Mad Jens for a reason. With Lehmann a moment of lunacy is never far away.

I think both perspectives are partially valid but I honestly don’t believe it matters much either way. Lehmann might, or should I say will, inspire the others to an extent no doubt. He might also end up coming on the pitch only to struggle due to match fitness. But I don’t see the title being won or lost due to either of these scenarios. The title will be won or lost by the likes of Cesc, RvP, Koscielny, and other first choice players along with the manager’s tactics.

I do agree with regular reader Aussie Jack who suggested it was time for Cesc to stand up and deliver. Last year he was conked for the season after the Barcelona game but this year El Capitan has a chance to show why he is the best player not only at Arsenal but in the Premiership. He has to produce a run of form capable of highlighting him as player of the season, something he certainly has the talent for. Along with Fabreas, Nasri has to make that final push to actually win the accolade. No team can win major titles without at least a couple of individuals in the running for such honours.

Of course, at the end of the season people will have their opinions, many of them based on the end result rather than actual details. Those who are praising Lehmann’s qualities right now could easily turn on him if he flops on the pitch. Same fans will then criticize the manager for signing a 41 year old. On the other hand those who don’t believe in the team right now will change their tune if Arsenal do go on and win it. Over the years I’ve realized there aren’t many things in football more fickle than fans’ opinions and browsing around other clubs’ blogs I’ve noticed this is a universal quality.

In order to avoid being wise after the fact I’ve put my opinion in public in advance. No matter what happens at the end I’ll not credit or blame the decision to sign Lehmann.

In a different story, the FA have handed Fergie a 5 game touchline ban. A lot has been made of the whole incident and many have said the punishment is too harsh but I feel the touchline ban in itself is the most impotent punishment in football. What is it that a manager does from the touchline that he cannot do from the stands?

Obviously, being in the stands is not exactly the same as being in the dugout with the rank and file. There is a degree of loss, perhaps in communication more than anything else. Maybe the way one views the game, the positions of the players, etc might be a bit different too. But I just don’t see it as a punishment as severe as the degree of crime committed to earn it. At the very least it should be a ban from the stadium. It might be difficult to implement but that doesn’t mean it should not be considered.

Moreover, whether it’s a touchline ban or one from the stadium, it should also include a ban on any form of communication between the manager and the dugout. When players are banned they cannot take part in the game. Essentially, their ability to contribute their best in a game is taken away from them. The same should be done to the managers. The banned manager’s team must be made to play without the influence of the manager for the duration of the game. To me, that is the only way to actually make an impact on all the managers who cross the line.

I’m not saying this because it’s Ferguson and right now his influence could have a big say on the title race. My point is more general and in the interest of fairness and betterment of the game. I’d say the same if Arsene got a touchline ban.

Anyway, we have two, at least notional, events that could have an effect on both title challengers. The positive way of looking at them is that Lehmann could bring something to the Arsenal dressing room while the absence of Fergie might take something away from United’s dugout. Will either matter in the end? I think not.

21 Responses to The Importance Of Lehmann + Football’s Most Impotent Punishment

  1. MSL says:

    I am really happy Lehmann was signed. Whether he performs or not his presence and attitude may lend belief to the players. He may be able to give the players an extra boost in the dressing room. But that depends on how good a communicator he is and whether the players actually heed his advice etc.

    We could have probably loaned a younger goalkeeper but Lehmann might just be what we need.

    I was really hoping we could get Martin Keown back as our defensive coach because he trained our defense when he was there and was instrumental in UEFA Champions League.

    • desigunner says:

      You probably remember that I’m a big fan of adding a specialist defensive coach to the Arsenal staff so I’d love some confirmation on the Keown story if you have the details.

      I have read it both ways. Some say he was there to do his badges and was involved with the coaching. Others say he was only there for his work but did no coaching. I haven’t been able find any authentic source like original comments or an interview confirming either line.

      Does anyone know a way of confirming the details?

  2. Marcus says:

    It would be more fun if the manager was made to sit in clothes basket, or put in a large boiling pot, (obviously not with boiling water), on the touchline.

    Or maybe made to wear a giant furry animal suit.

    • desigunner says:


    • Charlie says:

      Giant furry animal suit gets my vote. You try inspiring a team dressed as a fluffy bunny wabbit with big fwoppy ears. It helps to further reduce the managers’ influence on the game while giving us all a good laugh and humiliating the guilty man. Guilt is questionable seeing as he was only speaking the truth and I applaud Wenger for doing the same.

  3. Tee Song says:

    Wenger and Nasri given one match bans for hurting the refs feelings in the Barca game. Interestingly, this paragraph from soccernet’s story describes the punishment exactly as you would have it.

    “Wenger – who will not be allowed to go into his team’s dressing-room, the tunnel, or the technical zone, or on the pitch, nor to have any form of communication with his team – had reiterated in his press conference prior to the announcement that he felt he did not deserve punishment.”

    • desigunner says:

      Yeah that sounds like a more meaningful punishment. Not sure if it’s different from the touchline bans the FA dishes out. I’ve seen managers talking on the phone or communicating through relays/runners in the Premiership. Or maybe people just find loopholes in the wordings and work their way around.

    • desigunner says:

      UEFA calls it – “suspended for one UEFA club competition match”

      I guess that is different from a touchline ban … will have to do some research on this.

  4. Phv says:

    I think Lehmann`s signing is a good choice by Wenger. He will probably not play at all but he will help out in the dressing room to motivate the players.
    I think Arsene made a mistake last summer by not keeping Sol Campbell in the squad. He should have stayed as a 5th choice.He would not play at all but he would help the players. In the end of last season, he said that there were many lazy players who were not giving their best and they should wake up.Sol would have helped us this season.

  5. Nepali Gunner says:

    Mad Jens is a big risk, but it could pay off spectacularly. But you are right desi, it comes down to the players. We need our starting 11 healthy. I think with that, we will be able to win. I’m really glad we have the two week break after sat. Let the negativity die down a bit and also get our players back.

    I think we need Song and Walcott back more than anything. Those two are unique in our squad, with Song’s battling quality and Theo’s pace. We’ve lacked both in the last few games.

    • Charlie says:

      Like what you’ve done there, rather than go for the obvious loss of Fabregas focused on those two. You’re right of course, Song is irreplaceable because nobody in the squad does what he does and Walcott too. I have felt that Arsene needs someone else similar to Song. That’s been almost my only criticism of his transfer policy in recent years. As for Lehmann his personality will hopefully rub off on the players, they need an arrogant swagger about them as they do when they’re on-song.

  6. kubla khan says:

    I have said it before but I admit again that I find your industry at blogging and of other bloggers too quite interesting. This suggests passion, which isn’t always healthy. However, keep going on!

    As regards the season now, it was over some weeks ago. Yesterday or today Wenger said: I knew all along that Vermaelen might not play again this season.
    And yet Wenger didn’t buy cover for him this January. This is pure negligence and reflects total disdain for the fans and ultimately the club. A manage I liked to see on TV and other fora now simply grates on the ears. His lies resound, his smile seems artificial, his words malicious. Wenger has f’d Arsenal. And the board like voyeurs are getting their kicks from the money he saves them. The book-keeper keeps his job, the whole footballing world laugh at Wenger while he defends his ball-less players who could not get one shot at Barca at the Camp Nou.

    You talk of the next 10 games…..Wenger knows there will be no trophy to lift either this year or till 2014. By then Arsenal will be a respectable mid-table club, playing in the Europa league. Arsenal will be like Everton then. And he will be then consigned to the dust bin of footballing history. His great previous achievements will be forgotten, for which he alone is responsible.

    A man has to stand up for his ideals some time. Does he not sign good players because the board aren’t giving him anything or doesn’t he sign because of his so-called philosophy? ( does he know only philosophers have the right to use that word?) Why doesn’t he declare it openly and be transparent to the fans? Can a team play and win in an empty stadium?

    Wenger’s excuses grate. Only one thing can save this club now: his resignation. He won’t be sacked, we know. And he won’t resign, we know that too. And the fans, they suffer, suffer and suffer.( ultimately what does a club exist for?….to gratify a board or manager or develop a player or for the fans?
    I have no faith in a manager I used to admire. Wenger: go for god’s sake. Adieu monsieur, leave this club alone!

  7. alex says:

    To me is a great addition not in terms on the pitch but surely in that moritorium like dressing room.
    Lehman he do not get named “MAD” by accident but because his attitude to win took it a bit further.
    Throught out this last five years what i saw is the quite elimination of this winning attitude built in them players by the professor.
    Adebayour-This guy in his early stages he was one that you can rely on .I mean the ingredient was there.Remember the Chelsea game (i think it was a carling cup).Sure he is been sent off.But then it was not for mistimed tackle or anything like that .It was because he felt justice was not done for his side.Simply refuse to be bullied by the so called big men.Tell me guys would you like to see this type of sending of or the one of that idiot Diaby v Burton ? or the continous fauling on Walcot and no reprisal whatsoever just crawling in agony and a miss of a minimum three games ?
    And then the dressing room rumors ,and with all other things that we heard finally left.Did Arsene like it ?No.Hence he left .
    Flamini- It is been said there was some amount of money that the club would not pay more and he ended signing to Milan.But that guy i cannot fault him in his winning attitude.Every time was at the face of the opponent.No fears whatso ever.Did Wenger like it ? No.Then left.
    Gallas – Another winner who by his account (wenger) admit.Surely the intensity of the dressing room noises is a taboo.No one came to talk about exept few lines here and there.Another winner that he didnt get the back up of the professor left.
    Question is whom we left with ?did he attempt to replace them .Of course not.Why he didnt back them at first ?and if he really wants one winner with strong attitude you think didnt find one?I dont think so.
    Wenger does not have the capability to control and keep this kind of men.Makes an excuse or await the right time and selling with profit in mind to make happy the board is his strong side.
    Would it surprise that no one from the youngs take the mantle ?

    With What we left ?
    -Denilson .No pace -No hard tackling- no technique -No phisicall presence to fear off.Just baby face and side and back passer .
    Wenger likes him a lot, he will show us statistics on paper.Make money with the board but you cannot fool us .
    I am not Englishman by the way but i believe what i see.I see the on the top four there are strong english footballers attitude wise.All of us knows who they are.
    So why Wenger do not have any english players of Terry or Rooney caliber?
    I do not believe at the money excuses `cause i do believe yes they are expensive the one in the premiership but then why not from the championship. Simply put it this way Wenger does not want somebody with strong personality on the dressing room.
    I will not be surprised if young Wilshere will not be dispatched for one reason or another as i can see the ingredient of a leader are emerging.

  8. Charlie says:

    Alex are you seriously suggesting that team fighting to win the Premier League should be recruiting from the Championship ? One of the best players in that league right now is a 20yo Arsenal loanee called Henri Lansbury so yes maybe is they’re his age and as good as him (Aaron Ramsey) but otherwise I think not. If Arsene didn’t like strong characters in the dressing room why bring back the biggest ego of them all ? I don’t know why Denilson plays so often either but how about waiting til the season is over before criticising. Otherwise we might win the league and make you look like an idiot.

  9. JP says:

    I don’t have a problem signing Lehman. Hopefully he pushes Almunia to play out his goalie shirt and he we don’t have to have the conversation about Lehman messing up to open up for more criticism. It’s a short term fix. I am hoping we get it together and go on a run of wins. I’m anxious to see the teams response this weekend. Should be interesting. You see Liverpool go out to Braga and Man City go out the Europa. I thought that spending 200 million + guaranteed at least a Europa trophy. Kinda puts things into perspective. I am proud of our spending record on players, but I do wish we could get more established proven starting internationals in some key positions to offset some of our current squad. For example, whilst I am disappointed in some of Kos’ mistakes this year and I am convinced he has cost us dearly, I truly think he is a good defender and is getting better and will be one for the future. We have just had to endure his learning on the job for this year. So back last year I would have preferred a more established international starting CB along with signing Kos as an up an coming CB rather that signing Squilaci. It would have cost a little more but more beneficial. Spending more at specific times can help us.

  10. JJ Pittman says:

    40 years a Gooner, I am. Never was or will be a fan of Jens. Tend to be skeptical of anecdotalism, but must share mine of 2006 CL final which I watched from a sports bar in Lubeck, Germany. Must have been 150+ Lehmann haters there, I’m sure they loved Oliver Kahn, but all were rooting for Barca or against Arse, maybe primarily because they hated Mad Jens.
    Did he, or did he not, cost us that trophy? Larsson was great, but? Even in his prime, don’t think he compared to Seaman, who always played the angles perfectly and communicated superbly with his VETERAN back line.
    IMO, Jens reaction skills were outstanding, but not really much better than the harshly critized Almunia. He’s 41 now! Is he really a leader? Or just the flake he always was?
    Better than a 20 year-old, maybe? ,but just another smoke-screen to me!
    Touch line ban is pure bs, nuff said.
    Not negative, btw, still think we can win title, but it will have to be with play. Put the ball in the other team’s net, full stop…!

  11. amband says:

    defenders are a problem here. They will still let the ball through to the poor keeper

  12. Charlie says:

    It’s a very complicated problem having an excellent defender out with a long-term injury and having excellent young prospects such as Djourou. Squillaci was a French international when he signed, we all expected better from him and Kos has exceeded everyones’ expectations. As i keep saying the weakness is having nobody in reserve who can do Songs’ job. If we had that we’d also have no problem pushing him back into defense. I do have a slight criticism of AW there but that is all i would fault him for and he probably expected Frimpong to do that job before he got a year-long injury.

  13. alex says:

    I would love look idiot as long Arsenal win.I really love it.
    Here we are giving our honest opinion and not 100% professional one.I love arsenal to death, the thing is to may arsenal fans we have the same scepticism about a leader figure.
    Think leading 4 nil at half time and …..
    Again leading leading comfortably with 2 goals the spuds and loosing by 3 goals
    The way we lost the carling cup and Wigan.
    I am afraid i cannot falter the technical side rather than the attitude.The winning mentality is not there.
    As for the example i had given of the championship english players it is just i rate them high in theyr attitude as leaders and fighters .

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