Just when we thought the feud was over Wenger reopens old wounds with some choice words for Sir Alex and his team. Now, we all know the Frenchman likes absolutely loves to whinge, but this has to be some sort of joke:
“I have seen today a player who plays on the pitch only to make fouls. For me, this is a point that is more urgent than diving. The players who are never punished. Who get out of the game without a yellow card. I think it is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did.”
Wenger also went on to say:
“But I like the stance the English take towards diving. In some countries it is a quality to dive. I’m still more proud to be part of England where they fight against that.”
Some interesting comments from Mr. Wenger to say the least. Let’s break them down.
Darren Fletcher: Apparently he plays “only to make fouls”
This ‘mystery player’ Wenger speaks of is Darren Fletcher. Fletch put in a man of the match performance (Rooney actually got the ‘official’ title but declared that Fletcher was “head and shoulders” above anyone else on the pitch – a notion also seconded by Fergie) in the middle of the park and was probably lucky to escape the match without a booking. It’s not that he made any rash or dangerous tackles, but rather the quantity of fouls he committed. However, I can assure you that he did not commit “20” fouls like Mr. Wenger states. Nor was he on the pitch “only to make fouls”. Granted, Fletch is not on the pitch to score, cross, be creative or add flair. He’s in the middle of the park to win the ball, impose himself and pass the ball to people who are on the pitch to do all of the above. Fletcher is a class act and a fair player – he’s never lost his temper on the field nor does he have a reputation for dirty play. This is just a ridiculous accusation that clearly shows what a sore loser Wenger is. And you know what? Knowing how much the loss hurt Wenger makes it that much sweeter if that could be possible.
But the big talking point with Fletcher for many was his challenge in the box on Arshavin. Many thought it should have been a penalty and maybe they’re right. I don’t think it really matters though because on the ensuing possession, Arshavin drilled one into the top-left corner. That took all of 24 seconds. If it was a penalty, justice was served with immediate effect. Therefore, it’s not a big talking point in my book.
Wenger then chooses to focus on the fact that Fletcher didn’t get a card to deflect the fact his side weren’t able to finish the job. He says it as if Arsenal would have won if Fletcher got a yellow card. A yellow card. Give me a break. And then he goes on to indirectly state that Fletcher “never gets punished”. This is incredibly ironic as the last time the two sides met, Fletcher was incorrectly sent off (his challenge resulting in a penalty) and suspended for the Champions’ League Final – which would have been the biggest match of his career. Manchester United sorely missed him and went on to lose 2-0. I think that’s punishment enough.
Oh and just for your information, it was Arsenal who had the most yellow cards in the match – 6 of their players were booked to United’s 3. They’ll get a fine for that.
But the worst is yet to come.
Apparently, diving isn’t that bad. According to this ‘professor’, what Fletcher did or rather, what he supposedly got away with, is worse than diving. Players who get out of the game without a yellow card is worse than diving – it’s more ‘anti-football’. What Arsenal fan can agree to this notion?
Again, the Frenchman provides us with a dose of irony. Eduardo is facing a UEFA probe over his dive against Celtic, effectively ending the tie and Eboue came out with a disgraceful dive (he still had the ball!!) trying to get Evra sent off. This is anti-football behavior. I’m not picking on Arsenal because everyone dives but rather, Wenger’s comments. This blatant cheating, trying to get opponents sent off is what is really anti-football and it should be punished. If UEFA starts with Eduardo, then that’s what they do.
Players like Fletcher are supposed to be tough and tackle hard. If the tackles are mistimed, it’s down to the officials to punish him – it’s not down to the players’ or the teams’ tactics being anti-football.
And do not forget that before this ‘youth project’, the Arsenal team was one of the biggest, dirtiest clubs in the league. Who can forget Arsenal’s behavior against United and van Nistlerooy? That was really anti-football. And how about Gallas/the rest of the Arsenal team on Nani? Did Nani deserve to be attacked for some flashy football? Did Gallas get punished?
This isn’t supposed to be some Arsenal ‘witch-hunt’ but when Arsene Wenger keeps on coming out with these ridiculous comments, somebody has got to counter them. Manchester United are anti-football? They’ve won the league three years on the trot with some of the most free-flowing and free-scoring football we’ve ever seen. But to win the league, you need to learn how to win ugly – something Arsenal have yet to learn. And to pick on Darren Fletcher, one of the most honest and hardworking players (who the United fans despised 4 years ago, lest we forget) is just an immature move.