By Richard Clarke
Arsène Wenger has brushed aside allegations of racism against Fenerbahce manager Luis Aragones ahead of the game in Istanbul this evening.
The 70-year-old hit the headlines back in October 2004 while in charge of the Spanish national side. It was reported that Aragones used highly questionable language about Thierry Henry while trying to motivate Jose Antonio Reyes, then of Arsenal, in a training session before a friendly against England.
The remarks drew widespread criticism, not least from Henry himself. However, speaking at Monday’s press conference, Wenger argued that it seemed to be an isolated incident.
“It was in a training session when he wanted to motivate Jose Antonio Reyes,” said Wenger.
“It was a very clumsy sentence. But, on the information I have, he is not a racist.
“Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour and, if you are a public man, you have more responsibilities. But Samuel Eto’o had him as a coach and said he was not racist at all.”
The issue was compounded because, in the game that followed, several England players were subject to racist chanting from the crowds.
“Yes that happened in Madrid,” said Wenger. “But not only in that game, it happened in different circumstances too. And it also happened when Aragones was not involved so that shows this issue comes from something deeper.”
Indeed, the Arsenal manager backed his opposite number this evening to come through his difficulties at Fenerbahce.
Aragones was appointed in a blaze of glory at the start of the season having led Spain to victory at Euro 2008. However he has had a slow start. The Istanbul side are 10th in the Turkish League and are bottom of Champions League Group G with one point from two games.
"Look at our faces, we are always under pressure,” replied Wenger when asked about the scrutiny Aragones is facing right now.
“You can’t count on me to call for the sacking of any manager. We suffer a lot when things are not going well and you want every manger to turn things around.
“You need time. He arrived in August and we are in October. That is very short to have a real impact. You need to be given six months to have a real influence on the way your team plays.”Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 21 Oct 2008