By Giuseppe Muro
Jens Lehmann will resume his pursuit for full fitness when the Reserves host Sunderland in their final home game of the season on Tuesday.
After impressing in his first appearance since coming out of retirement at Wigan last week, Arsenal fans will get a chance to see the German custodian slightly closer to home as the second string look to keep their faint title chances alive.
While admitting regular stopper James Shea can count himself unfortunate to be out of the side for the time being, manager Neil Banfield is more than happy to welcome Lehmann into his team while he continues as Manuel Almunia’s understudy until the end of the season.
“The manager uses the Reserves to get first team players back to full fitness and that is what is happening here,” he told Arsenal.com. “Jens has asked to play again on Tuesday night because he knows what he needs. Jens is a first class professional.
“I thought he did fine last week, he had been out for a while and used the game to get a little bit sharper. Not forgetting he had been out for a year, we thought he did well. It is a process for him at the moment.
“He had a day off after the Wigan game and then was back working with the first team the following day. He has done a few days training and is ready for Tuesday. He needs those game situations that you can't replicate in training.
“With the experience he has got, it was just about getting himself back into the mindset of playing games.”
Lehmann’s influence on Banfield’s young squad was clear - his imposing voice was a constant noise behind a back four with an average age of just 18.
But it was away from the pitch, in the sanctuary of the dressing room and in the way the 41-year-old conducted himself, that Banfield believes Lehmann can make the most difference. The Reserves boss sees Lehmann as the perfect example for any aspiring professional.
“Jens was great for them to listen to, to see how he prepares and just to watch him and learn from him. He was very demanding of them and was speaking to them the whole time.
“He spoke to the young players and was brilliant with them. Every time he trains and every time he plays - there is no other way with Jens than being professional. I think he enjoyed it and it served a purpose for him.”
Following his first taste of competitive football in nearly a year, French striker Jeremie Aliadiere is also in contention to keep his starting spot for the visit of the Black Cats.
Captain Ignasi Miquel is available despite his red card in the North-West last time out while Oguzhan Ozyakup returns from international duty.
Arsenal.com will bring you live text commentary from the game and Arsenal TV Online subscribers can view match highlights 'on demand' from Wednesday afternoon.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source