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Wenger backs 'rested' Lehmann despite blunders

By Jason Burt

Jens Lehmann will be rested by Arsenal for the next couple of weeks – although manager Arsène Wenger insisted yesterday that the goalkeeper's absence is due to injury rather than paying the price for his early season errors.

Speaking at the launch of the club's official charity of the season, TreeHouse, Wenger said that the 37-year-old German had aggravated an Achilles problem playing against England on Wednesday evening. He added: "He's had pain for two or three weeks and it is worse today. He will not play [against Manchester City in the Premier League tomorrow]."

Wenger insisted that the problem was not an explanation for the mistakes – Lehmann has gifted goals to Fulham and Blackburn Rovers – which have marred the season so far. "I couldn't say that," he said. "But I feel that apart from the mistakes he made he had good games. It wasn't as if he couldn't jump."

Lehmann will see a specialist in Germany today and will be replaced by Manuel Almunia. It may well be that the injury has come at an opportune time for Arsenal given his form but Wenger said it was "not like that".

TreeHouse is the national charity for autism education and Wenger was speaking at its flagship school in north London. Arsenal hope to raise £250,000 to help pay for sports facilities for the charity which has set itself a target of £11.5m for a new national centre. It has also raised £8.5m.

Given Lehmann's age it may be that, if Almunia excels, his reign as Arsenal's first-choice is over although Wenger insisted "I don't judge it like that."

Lehmann was replaced by Almunia the season before last after suffering a crisis, and an added threat for him is the £2m signing of the promising Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Wenger, who is also missing captain William Gallas through injury, with Kolo Toure likely to deputise, said of Almunia: "He's equipped to take responsibility. Last year when he played he did very well and he is maturing. He has all the attributes you need."

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