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Mar, 20, 2011

Almunia: No issue with Lehmann

Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia insists he has no axe to grind with Jens Lehmann following the former Germany international's return to the club.

An injury crisis has led to manager Arsene Wenger coaxing Lehmann out of retirement on a month-to-month contract. But the two were known to not see eye-to-eye before Lehmann left for Vfb Stuttgart in 2008.

Almunia famously said that Lehmann "hates" him - something the current Gunners number one now chooses to forget - which made Wenger's decision to bring back the German all the more surprising.

The pressure is mounting on Almunia after another high-profile error led to West Brom's second goal in the 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns on Saturday - which means Lehmann could even find himself thrust into first-team action after the international break.

Almunia told the Sunday Express: "There are no problems. There is respect between us. We have keepers out injured. Jens was one of the best keepers in the world and has returned to give his best."

When asked about his previous comment about their relationship, he added: "I don't remember saying that. When he left Arsenal we spoke and he left on good terms. We have a good relationship. He's here to compete with me and it's a challenge. But I've always tried to help the team."

However, in an interview with the Guardian in 2008, Almunia said: "I like to treat everyone with respect and I see everyone as equals. I treat people the way I would like to be treated myself. To have someone here who hates me is just amazing. I know he hates me."

Wenger would not be drawn on the goalkeeping situation when asked after the draw with West Brom: "I do not want to go too much into individual criticism. The players involved in that second goal know what it was about and what was good was the reaction the whole team has shown and their fighting spirit.''

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