On a day where United were guilty of just six more fouls than Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has continued his bitter/sore loser routine by branding our club “anti-football”. Of course, all of this is in defence of the divers he has in his team. I don’t know how Arsenal fans feel about this one, but I certainly wouldn’t enjoy Sir Alex Ferguson making excuses for diving and trying to paint it as not being such a crime.
Having Cristiano Ronaldo in our team lead to a great amount of joy but also a great amount of embarrassment too. My worst memory was probably our 4-1 win over Derby the season before last. We were 3-0 with an hour played and the result was never in any danger. But in the last minute in the pouring rain, Ronaldo dived to win a penalty. It was so needless. But to give it context, Ronaldo had been booked in our previous game for diving against Fulham, when in actual fact he should have been awarded a penalty.
BBC: Ronaldo was undoubtedly the star of the show but he was unable to finish the game with a flourish – his final act of note seeing him harshly booked after he raced on to a Giggs pass and fell as he tried to hurdle Niemi.
So, I guess he thought, ‘fuck it. I get booked when I’m fouled, let’s see if I can win a pen when I’m not.’ And he did. It was still totally cringeworthy and embarrassing though and I would never deem it acceptable or worthy of defence, as Wenger has done today.
Wenger was asked about Eboue’s dive but he refused to criticise the player. In a week where one of his players has (ridiculously) been charged by UEFA for diving, surely Wenger can see how stupid it was for Eboue to do that, aside from the embarrassing and cheating aspect of him going down? Nope.
“I think it is difficult with diving,” he responded, when asked about the Eboue dive. “Sometimes players dive to escape being hit. It’s not always necessarily diving because you want to dive. Sometimes it’s a way of getting out of the way. The borderline between being sensible, being shrewd or being a cheat is very slim so, in some cases, to assess which is which is very difficult.”
Ok, that’s fair enough. Clutching at straws a bit but it makes some sense. The problem is when Eboue went down, he then turned to the referee, holding his hands out, as if to say ‘where is my free-kick?’. Had he tumbled to the ground to ‘escape being hit’ then he would have jumped straight back up again when he realised no contact had been made. He didn’t do that though, he appealed for a freekick, confirming that he was trying to deceive the ref, not just get out of the way of a non-existant Evra challenge.
There was a difference in six fouls, as adjudged by the referee, which is neither here nor there. He was a fussy ref and was handing out free-kicks for nothing, and his fussy nature was confirmed in his ludicrous decision to send Wenger off deep in to stoppage time.
“I have seen a player who plays on the pitch only to make fouls,” he said. “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. Look at how many deliberate fouls some players get away with. That’s a bigger problem because it cuts the flow of the game. And people pay to see football, not free-kicks.”
The Guardian live text:
20 mins A few sharp tackles going in, Song hacks down Fletcher but play is waved on.
23 mins First yellow as Song absolutely mows down Valencia, who had just beaten a couple of players. He was nowhere near the ball. Ouch.
Sky Sports live text:
31 A fantastic run by Evra is brought to a halt by William Gallas who gets a yellow card for his trouble.
In a period of ten minutes there were three free-kicks awarded in United’s favour for cynical challenges. I am one of the people who pays to see football, not free-kicks, but does Wenger only have a problem with what I’m paying for when it’s his team being fouled?
But then, this isn’t the first time Wenger has accused United of such things when wearing his bitter in defeat hat. When we ended their unbeaten run at Old Trafford Wenger claimed we kicked his players off the pitch. That day there was a difference in just three fouls with Arsenal committing more.
Darren Fletcher could have seen himself booked and a penalty conceded for his challenge on Arshavin. It had no effect on the final score as Arsenal scored from the resulting attack, seconds later, but we could have had no arguments about a yellow card there. Regardless, the media are assuming Fletcher is the player Wenger is singling out for criticism for escaping a booking. I’d agree, Fletcher should have been booked in that game, but are we really going to have a row about one player getting booked or not? Isn’t it all just a tad petty, Wenger?
The fact is, United were dreadful for the first 45 minutes and Arsenal couldn’t make us pay. Over the period of 90 minutes, the only other shot that caused Foster any real problems was van Persie‘s at the start of the second half. So whilst it is certainly a case of back to the drawing board for us, following those terrible tactics, I’m not too sure what Wenger or Arsenal fans have to be too happy about today. They were the better team, no doubt, but even when playing such woeful opposition as United in that first half, Arsenal still didn’t look great. Think of Arsenal against Everton a few weeks ago, they looked great then, but did Everton really play that much worse than we did in that first half?
Had Arsenal had a player like Darren Fletcher on the pitch, chasing down every single ball, putting in challenges, making the opponents feel pressured to pass, maybe they would have left Old Trafford with a scoreline that better reflected how they felt they played. As it is, nobody on their team worked hard enough for a victory, and whether Fletcher deserved to be booked or not, Wenger’s complaints are only there to cover up the truth. 1. Arsenal should have won but they didn’t do enough to get the three points against a poor performing team, and 2. they still have a problem with diving, in a week when diving was the last thing any of their players should have been doing.
Three points in the bag and Wenger’s bitter complaints make it all the sweeter.