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May 15, 2014

Lehmann: Wenger should decide future

The FA Cup Final is upon us and Arsenal fans across the world are rubbing their eyes in disbelief. They're about to win a trophy. Yes! A trophy!

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann believes that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has "made the club what it is right now" and has earned the right to decide when to stand down as manager.

Jens Lehmann saves Juan Roman Riquelme penalty in 2006 which sealed Arsenal's place in the Champions League final
Jens Lehmann says Arsenal wouldn't be where they are today without Arsene Wenger.

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Wenger has yet to put pen-to-paper on an extension to his contract that expires this summer, but the expectation is that the 64-year-old who has been in charge at Arsenal since 1996 will remain at the helm for next season.

Lehmann, who was a member of the Wenger's last trophy winning Arsenal side in the 2005 FA Cup final, has hinted the lengthy wait for another trophy under Wenger's watch will be forgotten so long as his side beat Hull in Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley.

"I wish they would give other managers as much time, but Arsene is the club and he made the club what it is right now," said Lehmann in the Daily Mail.

"He determines the philosophy and, financially, they are probably the most successful club, with the new stadium and always participating in the Champions League. But not winning something has to come to an end on Saturday."

Lehmann accepts the speculation over Wenger's long-term future at Arsenal will rumble on until the confirmation that he has signed his new contact with the club comes, with the former Germany keeper suggesting the Frenchman will decide when to call time on his reign at the club.

"For what he has done for Arsenal he deserves that, to make the decision himself," said Lehmann. "Even though he's 64, I think he will still be at the club for some years to come but, of course, there is the possibility that if he wins the FA Cup he could decide it's finally time to do something else with his life!"

Lehmann believes the landscape in English football has changed since Wenger enjoyed his initial burst of success after he arrived at Arsenal 18 years ago, with the arrival of big money investors at rival clubs and the move to Emirates Stadium testing the Gunners to the full.

"Recruitment has become very difficult because of competition from other clubs," reflected Lehmann. "All of a sudden the likes of Chelsea came in, then Man City and it wasn't a fair competition anymore.

"Arsenal were struggling because they had to pay off their new stadium and the money wasn't there, but we still could have won the league in 2008. We were top of the table and then had that game at Birmingham when Eduardo broke his leg.

"Even when I came back in 2011, we were competing at the top of the table with Man United and could have won the title, but we didn't. There were chances but, comparing the squad to the other more expensive squads, probably it was not strong enough in terms of quality.

"As a manager you have to protect your players, but you also want to have a group which acknowledges that fourth place is not good enough. It's the minimum, but as a manager you have to cover and protect your players and you have to tell the public it was a successful season, even if he doesn't think so. I think that's the philosophy of most managers."

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