What can Wojciech Szczesny learn from Jens Lehmann?

Lukasz Fabianski has taken the role of number one keeper from his Polish compatriot at Arsenal leaving Szczesny with a job to do getting back into the starting line-up. Can he learn anything from the experience of Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia?

Two games, four goals, none conceded and both away from home; certainly not bad form at all. Since the disappointment of losing to Tottenham in the North London Derby Arsenal have been playing some solid football.

Much of this has been down to Arsene Wenger’s decision to mix things up a bit in the first-team squad with one major call coming with his goalkeepers.

Wojciech Szczesny was the undisputed number one at The Emirates last season but since the summer things have been less than positive for the 22-year-old.

His poor decision making in the opening tie of Euro 2012 saw him sent off and concede a penalty against Greece. PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton came on and saved the resulting penalty taking over the duties of Szczesny in the process.

He then suffered with injuries at the start of the campaign and his first game back against Southampton saw him drop a clanger for The Saints consolation strike.

Since then he has been sporadic in the quality of his performances but with just Vito Mannone and Damian Martinez below him in the pecking order all seemed rosy in regards to his number one spot.

However while Szczesny was confidently messing up in the first-team behind closed doors his countryman Lukasz Fabianski was recovering from an ankle injury and then making a name for himself once again with impressive displays for the under-21s.

Now Fabianski looks set to be the number one choice for the remainder of the season after Szczesny was dropped due to his ‘mental fatigue’.

Szczesny is not alone in being dropped from the first-team after suffering from such a problem under Arsene Wenger.

Before the game with Bayern Munich in Germany one former Arsenal keeper spoke of his similar situation:

"When I had mental fatigue he (Wenger) took me out as well. I came back stronger. It could be good for Wojciech."

Those were the words of Jens Lehmann; a cult hero at Arsenal for his two spells at the club.

In the 2004-05 season the German struggled with form and was replaced for a while by Manuel Almunia before the Spaniard suffered an injury and was usurped by Lehmann. He went on to have a blinding end of the season including a man-of-the-match display against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup Final; the last time Arsenal won any silverware.

The next season was arguably his best at the club as he beat the Champions League clean sheet record and helped Arsenal to the final against Barcelona; where he was unfortunately sent off.

In 2007 he again struggled for form and this time Almunia remained in goal for an extended period of time but Lehmann again took over. Near the end of that campaign Wenger began to rely more on the services of Fabianski in the goal.

So how did Lehmann continue to get the one-up on Almunia?

Two reasons. One pressure and two luck.

Firstly luck. Almunia was not exactly Mr Steel and his injury problems did help Lehmann prove his worth on two occasions but applying pressure was also key.

He was constantly talking to the media about playing second fiddle to Almunia. In fact the now-Watford keeper even said these infamous words back in 2008;

"I know it is going to be the same. I've had to put up with it every day since he (Lehmann) was out of the team and even before then. I wake up and I know what it is going to be like. But I don't care about him anymore. He can say what he likes. I come into training and I work with Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone. They are better goalkeepers than him anyway."

Not long after this interview Almunia was once again out of the first-team.

What can Szczesny learn from Lehmann?

First of all is to be tenacious and judging by his recent comments about wanting to be at Arsenal that appears to be present and that attitude will apply pressure to Fabianski.

Secondly Fabianski is also made of glass and Szczesny’s time will soon come again.

When that happens all he has to do is take his chance.

Do you think Szczesny can overtake Fabianski before the end of the season?

images: © wonker

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