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By ESPN Staff

Wenger hints that Lehmann can go for right offer

LONDON, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Unsettled goalkeeper Jens Lehmann may be allowed to leave Arsenal next month if the right offer is received, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday.

Wenger added that he had not heard of any firm bid for the 38-year-old German's services and hoped he would stay at the club when the transfer window opens next month.

The London Evening Standard reported, however, that managing director Hans Joachim Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc of Lehmann's former club Borussia Dortmund had flown to London for talks with the goalkeeper.

Wenger told reporters: 'Jens Lehmann at the moment has not made up his mind. Once he has made up his mind that he wants to go, we will see.

'I will be sorry to see him go but I don't want to take him out of the team and stop him from playing in the European Championship.'

Wenger does not entirely discount having to call on Lehmann's services.

'Of course, if we have two injuries with the goalkeepers [the situation can change],' he said. 'You must always go day by day - but if the situation remains like that and he says 'Listen, I have the only chance to play in the European Championship if I play somewhere' I will try to help him.'

The Arsenal manager, however, rejects suggestions a deal has already been done.

He said: 'I heard about Dortmund but I have had no contact with anybody.'

Wenger insists the scenario facing Lehmann calls for a 'different' approach to that for some of the other younger members of the squad said to be frustrated at a lack of first-team chances.

'Lehmann is different - and if I ask Lehmann to stay, then he will stay,' he said. 'But he is 38 years of age, has played six years here and this is his last chance to play in the European Championships - so it's a completely different situation.'

Lehmann joined Arsenal from Dortmund in August 2003 and won a Premier League title with the Gunners in 2004 and the FA Cup in 2005. He was also in the Arsenal team that lost to Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final when he was sent off early.

Germany's first choice keeper at the 2006 World Cup, Lehmann is keen to keep his place in his national team for the European Championship finals in Switzerland and Austria next June.

This season, Lehmann has made only two league appearances and played in two European ties, losing his regular first-choice place to Spaniard Manuel Almunia.

Arsenal travel to Everton on Saturday with Lehmann again likely to be on the bench but the Gunners will be without injured Dutch winger Robin van Persie and Englishman Theo Walcott who still has the flu.

Wenger confirmed that both men are out of his squad but that French defender William Gallas was fit to play despite picking up a knock in Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Portsmouth.

He added that in spite of the injuries, he had no plans to add to his squad during January's transfer window.

He complained that if it had not been for the Premier League's intense fixture scheduling, including three successive away trips to Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough in early December, Arsenal would have remained unbeaten.

'Of course we are disappointed not to be top, but the important thing is to be there, to be first, in May,' he said.

'We have only lost one game since the start of the season and I believe that if we had not played three games on the trot away from home, as never existed before for anybody, we would not have lost yet.'

Wenger has also called for referees in the Premier League to be stricter when punishing tackles from behind.

Wenger told a news conference on Friday he welcomed the recent clampdown by officials on two-footed tackles from the front but suggested there was still a need for referees to stamp out the dangerous ones from behind.

'I just think, at the moment, it is more punished now than it was two or three weeks ago, Wenger said about the crack down on two-footed tackles.

'The second thing I believe is that the tackles from behind are not punished enough.

'Now they just punish the tackles from the front,' he added.

'But I have seen some tackling from behind much more dangerous than front tackles and they have not been punished at all.'

There have been several controversial incidents involving tackling in the Premier League recently, including two during the hotly contested 1-0 win over Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium earlier this month.

Wenger was unhappy with a tackle by Chelsea's John Terry on Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas in that match. Terry was later injured in a tackle by Emmanuel Eboue and had to go off.