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.