Jens Lehmann has a book coming out soon. It’s called The Madness Is On The Pitch and from the snippets being serialised in the Telegraph, ‘what a magic’ it looks to be.
As you’d expect, he doesn’t hold back. How could he? It’s Jens.
We particularly enjoyed reading the German’s character assassination of William Gallas, who was appointed Arsenal captain by Arsene Wenger ahead of the 2007/08 season.
The decision wasn’t particularly popular amongst the squad although it took until THAT 2-2 draw with Birmingham, the game that signalled the derailing of our title ambitions, for things to boil over.
There are also some very enjoyable passages detailing his rivalry with Manuel Almunia who was made first choice keeper at the start of the same season. At one point Jens even tried to goad the Spaniard into hitting him during training so that the boss would have no choice but to put him back between the sticks.
In fairness, he does also make clear that they were on friendly-enough terms off the pitch…well sometimes.
On Gallas being made club captain…
Having William Gallas head the team in the 2007/08 season was problematic. We had learned of his appointment in the papers and we all shook our heads. The previous season he had repeatedly turned up very late for training or had left the training ground without permission. With the promotion, Wenger apparently wanted to appeal to Gallas’s sense of responsibility, trying to turn him from Saul to Paul. Initially, this went successfully, until Gallas once briefly lost his nerve.
On Gallas’ behaviour during and after the Birmingham game…
Instead of standing at the edge of the area and clearing a possibly parried penalty like any other defender in the world, he abandoned the team, ran towards the halfway line and, in his anger, kicked an advertising hoarding.
After the match, which eventually ended 2–2 thanks to the converted penalty, he refused to leave the pitch but sat down in the centre circle like a sulky child, until the manager himself came to collect him. In the dressing room, Gallas came to blows with Gilberto, who accused him of seeking attention in a daft manner – the row dragged on for the remainder of the season. Finally, it contributed to us finishing only third, four points behind Manchester United, despite having been six points ahead in March.
On a training ground bust-up with Almunia…
When the match was over, I went up to him [Almunia]. ‘Listen, when something’s happening at my end, you’re not to yell at the back.’ That was when all his rage broke out of him. ‘What do you want, bastardo?’ ‘What are you saying? Why are you insulting me?’ I shot back. ‘Shut the f*** up, bastardo!’ came the reply. ‘Ah, at least now you’re openly saying what you really think of me,’ I said. ‘This is your true character – insulting colleagues!’
By now, the other players and the boss had noticed our argument and tried to calm us down, having to positively restrain Almunia so that he would not smack me. I, of course, would have welcomed him losing control, since that would have meant getting rid of a rival. Unfortunately, he cooled down again.
If you missed it yesterday, the Telegraph also have Jens’ take on Thierry Henry and the ‘Invincibles’, worth a read.
Jens Lehmann’s autobiography, The Madness is on the Pitch, is available for £10 at the moment from the publisher (deCoubertin).