Date: 19th November 2014 at 12:03pm
Written by:

Just recently my 7 year old son has been getting more and more into football and in particular (thank the lord), Arsenal.

He`s always asking questions about the team, past players, my favourite players and goals, who is the best, who is the worst etc etc, our walks to school in a morning usually consist of football talk.

This morning the subject was Arsenal goalkeepers and of course the name Jen Lehmann cropped up. It must have been the smile on my face or the glint in my eye that compelled the little man to ask all about this goalie with the “funny name”.

I proceeded to tell him all about the Mad German`s antics over the years and how he became a cult hero at the club, not the best stopper to ever tend goal for Arsenal but certainly one of the biggest characters.

It was this chat that led me to think that a series of articles recalling my favourite moments from my favourite players over the last 22 years might be a fun thing to do, and as Jens helped give me the idea, I may as well start with him.

Jens Lehmann joined Arsenal in 2003 as the sole signing for the summer for a poultry £1.5M. Most people wrote Arsenal off immediately as not having strengthened the side enough to reclaim their crown from Manchester United.

However Arsenal went on to do what no other team had ever done in English football in the modern era ? Went an entire season without losing a game, and Jens Lehmann was an integral part of that team.

Following that miraculous season, Lehmann`s Arsenal career was a rollercoaster ride that could have seen me choose any number of his special moments for the club. I initially thought my choice would be one of the many many funny things he did in an Arsenal shirt but after racking my brain there was only one logical choice.

Though firstly I would like to give honourable mentions to the penalty save in the 2005 FA Cup final that helped win us the cup, that amazing save from Man Utd`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that left the super-sub wide-eyed in bemusement, the many encounters with Didier Drogba/The Bolton Players, the amazing save from Raul in probably the greatest 0-0 of all time and last but not least the time he was booked for taking the piss out of Chris Kirkland`s time wasting in a victory over Wigan back in 2007 (one of my favourite Jens stories actually came after he left Arsenal. He got into a tussle with a striker, removed the players boot and threw it on the roof of the net).
My favourite moment is of course Lehmann’s penalty save which came in the 2006 Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

Lehmann had already been instrumental in helping Arsenal keep a record 9 consecutive clean sheets in the run up to the Champions League semi final, and with Kolo Toure giving Arsenal a slender lead going into the second leg of the tie the stage was set for an extremely tense night as Arsenal sought to play in their first ever European cup final.

Villarreal were dominant on the night and you felt one goal would surely see them get another thus ensuring their passage to Paris. However some fine goalkeeping and a couple of near misses saw Arsenal enter the last minute of the semi final with their lead firmly in tact.

All that was about to change as in the 89th minute the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot when Gael Clichy was harshly judged to have brought down Jose Mari in the box after only the slightest of touches. Even though it would have just been an equaliser, you felt there would only be one winner from here on in.

The task of converting the spot kick fell to Juan Riquelme.

As the pair faced off in this most dramatic of circumstances the Spanish television director did a masterful job of adding to the drama by cutting backwards and forwards between the faces of the penalty taker and goal keeper, getting ever closer with each switch.

Riquelme started his run up, we all watched from behind our hands with fingers slightly ajar. Lehmann took one almighty leap to his left, almost too mighty, but he`d guessed right and forced the ball away with his body/hands.

Chaos ensued, people embraced and I suspect the television in my house wasn`t the only one getting a teary hug from its owner.

Arsenal were in the Champions League final and it was all thanks to Mad Jens.

Please feel free to leave your own favourite Jens Lehmann moments in the comments section or suggest players for the next “Memories” piece.

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