After Manchester United robbed Arsenal earlier in the season, thanks to poor judgement from Almunia and an own goal from Diaby, Arsene Wenger took his frustrations out on Darren Fletcher.
This season, Fletcher has committed fewer fouls than Song and Diaby, despite playing in more games, yet Wenger took the childish move of branding Fletch “anti-football”. Despite not naming him, it was fairly obvious who he was talking about, and refused to deny Darren was the player he was referring to when asked out right.
“I have seen today 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.”
Fletcher escaped a booking in that game despite committing several fouls, but over the course of the season has collected 3 yellow cards for his 26 fouls, an average of 1 booking per 8-9 fouls. In contrast, Diaby has just 1 yellow card for his 27 fouls, an average of 1 booking per 27 fouls! Diaby is a perfect example of a player who is never punished.
“That is where Arsene let himself down,” said Ferguson. “What he said was disappointing and actually, I don’t think he believes it for a minute. Everyone knows that Darren Fletcher is not a dirty player or a physical player. He is not built that way. But he can win the ball and his timing and energy to get to it is fantastic. You can’t call that a fault.”
Wenger should be familiar with the “anti-football” player he describes, given his former captain, Patrick Vieira, committed more fouls than anyone in the Premiership during 03-04 season and came second only to Kevin Davies for the amount of fouls he committed in the 04-05 season.
Ferguson has distanced his player from being that sort, likening the attributes of Fletcher to former United player Brian McClair.
“He was exactly the same,” he continued. “When the ball moved, he moved. Darren is in the same mould because he must run more than anyone. His energy and awareness of space are excellent. We have been saying how good he is for a while. Maybe it has taken longer for the fans to appreciate the qualities the boy has.”
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