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Lehmann's departure signals revolution
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Arsene Wenger's ceaseless pursuit of footballing perfection makes evolution his favored method of team-building, but the Arsenal manager faces a close-season revolution as he steels himself for the departures of several key players.

While Nicklas Bendtner's late goal clinched a 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday that left the visitor sweating over UEFA Cup qualification and emphasised the limitless potential of Wenger's emerging young side, there was a sense of an era ending in north London.

Wenger confirmed he sent on Jens Lehmann for the final 25 minutes at the Emirates Stadium to allow him one last appearance before his imminent departure after five years at the club.

The German goalkeeper, who Wenger rates as one of the best stoppers in Premier League history, said farewell to the crowd with an extended lap of honor. But it is the other potential departures that could prove more damaging in the long run.

Wenger has given Mathieu Flamini until Monday to decide if he wants to accept Arsenal's offer of a new contract. But AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani claimed on Sunday that the French midfielder is set to sign a four-year deal with the Serie A club and his time at the Emirates looks over.

Then there is Inter Milan's repeated attempts to lure Alexander Hleb to the San Siro. Wenger is furious that the Italian champion publicly admitted its interest in the Belarus winger and is ready to report it to UEFA.

His frustration has been increased by the suspicion that Hleb could be seduced by Inter's overtures.

Flamini and Hleb both watched from the sidelines on Sunday due to injury and suspension and may not tread the Emirates turf again.

Throw in the likely exit of Gilberto Silva as the Brazilian midfielder searches for a more regular action and suddenly Wenger's squad looks a little thin.

"It was a farewell for Jens, yes," Wenger said. "I wanted the fans to say goodbye to him because of what he's done for us. He's not an easy character but you take that. He's been fully committed and that's easy to forget sometimes."

(Agencies via China Daily May 6, 2008)

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