Jens Lehmann has been a fixture at London Colney since July when he was handed an assistant coaching role by Arsene Wenger. For the most part, he’s been a relatively low-key figure, sticking to a position in the stands on match days and, the release of an English version of his autobiography aside, staying out of the media spotlight both here and in his native Germany.
Last week, he conducted an interview with Sport Bild going into more detail about his role at Arsenal. In it, he reveals he was the one to initiate contact with the boss about a position at the Emirates, that he’s never had to work so hard or so long and how he’s learning how to be more diplomatic!
Thanks to Arseblog tactics-maestro Lewis Ambrose for translating the entire thing for us.
Mr. Lehmann, you’ve now been one of Arsene Wenger’s assistant coaches at Arsenal for half a year. How did that come about?
I first got in touch with Arsène Wenger, whom I played under for 6 years, in April 2017. I knew he had to change some things at Arsenal, so I spoke to him about it. He listened to my wishes over the phone and said, “I’m interested.” I know him well enough to have known: that’ll do!
Why did you look to get into coaching in England and not in Germany?
I’m very grateful to Arsene Wenger. As a former player it’s not easy to start anywhere today. The trend in Germany is to appoint coaches nobody actually knows because they didn’t play themselves. When that’s how things work, it’s not possible to start as an assistant coach.
How do you see things at Arsenal right now, with an eight-point gap to the Champions League places and the club already out of the FA Cup?
In the FA Cup we gave very young players the chance to show what they can do. Unfortunately the result wasn’t what we expected but we have won the cup three of the last four years. You can’t do that every year. Teams like Spurs or City are now considered great but haven’t won anything in recent seasons. In the league we are indeed behind expectations and need to improve. We’ve also been on the wrong end of far too many refereeing mistakes. We hope that’s compensated before the end of the season.
How intense is your job at Arsenal?
I’ve never worked so long and so hard in my life. One day, at eight in the morning, I arrived to do training with the players who weren’t in the squad. After that I drove to Liverpool for the game. Because we lost, we analysed it for over an hour as soon as we got back. And finally I went to bed.
How has Wenger shaped you (as a coach)?<
At first, I watched training. At some point he came up to me and said: “Jens, I’ve also brought you here to actively coach, as you’ve done before.” Since then I’ve been very involved in training sessions. Sometimes your position makes a difference – I’m no longer in goal, but on the sidelines, so I need to be more diplomatic.
What does your general working day look like?
I get up at 7am and deal with things from my past life, such as answering e-mails etc. Around 8:30 I drive to London Colney, which takes 35 minutes. The 11 members of the coaching staff meet at 9:30 under the instruction of Arsene Wenger. Today before training, at 10:30, I prepared video clips from league games, which the coaching team will discuss after lunch. I usually work at Colney until 16:00 but today will probably be later again.
What are your duties in training?
For example, I oversee one of four groups of six players (which includes the German group). After that a few exercises and finally there is always individual training with different players.
There is a ‘German group’?
Sure. The German-speaking players: Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, Granit Xhaka, Per Mertesacker usually train together (when we are) in the small groups, often with Alexis Sanchez. The boss gives the object and content of the (training) games.
You call Wenger ‘the boss’?
Yes, to me he’s the boss from my time as a player. The others usually call him ‘gaffer’, an English term for the coach I didn’t know before my time in England.
Arsenal will be looked at as a very German club.
Arsenal is more German than ever! There’s still some French influence, though, through Arsene Wenger and other Frenchmen working here. And with players it is often a case of coming and going. For instance, Mesut Ozil doesn’t know if he will stay. But Per Mertesacker will lead the academy from the summer, which will be a big loss for the first team, because he’s very influential as captain. Then we have the chief scout Sven Mislintat, who has arrived from Germany, so the German influence continues to grow.
As a player you were thought of as your own person. What have you had to change to be a coach?
What I needed to improve on for the first few months was being diplomatic. When there’s a lot of staff you need to be careful. As a player being diplomatic was never necessary for me. It was actually a hindrance because it slowed things down.
Does the Bundesliga appeal to you, as a coach?
I don’t feel like an English coach but like a German. The Arsenal staff and team is too international (to feel English). But something I’d definitely take with me is the intensity of the Premier League, the physicality and speed, the training that goes along with that, which is different from in the Bundesliga. Knowing about the differences means the chance to become a coach in the Bundesliga would be very interesting.
How do you see the next step in your coaching career?
Being an assistant is good for me, I can learn the structure, methodology, and implementation of the job from the second row. But, naturally, becoming a manager is the goal. Some things you learn best by doing them yourself.
You can read more of Lewis’ work on Arseblog here.