Arsène Wenger has no problem with 'physical' football but he is growing increasingly frustrated by teams who violate the laws of the game and referees who allow them to get away with it.
The Arsenal manager was fuming after last weekend's game at Bramall Lane in which he claimed that Sheffield United captain Chris Morgan punched Robin van Persie. Wenger's players were described as 'big babies' by Morgan's team-mate, Phil Jagielka, but Wenger was vindicated this week when Morgan was found guilty of violent conduct and banned for three matches.
The Frenchman's anger goes beyond the fact that Morgan's punch went undetected and the irony that Arsenal's rivals will benefit when they face a Blades side weakened by their captain's absence. At a press conference ahead of this weekend's trip to Liverpool, Wenger explained why he wants referees to clamp down on those who do not respect the rules.
"One hundred per cent commitment is one of the great strengths of the English game, it's respected all over the world," he said. "But I don't feel it is right to punch people in the stomach and then say they are 'babies'. That is not the way I see the game.
"In my experience, the bravest players never try to 'do' anyone, they go for the ball. When you're brave, you're strong, you respect the rules. When you go for the ball 100 per cent I respect that, but when I see a player giving another player an elbow before he goes for the ball, I say, 'sorry my friend, you have nothing to do in the game'. It's not football."
Arsenal struggled against muscular sides last season but Wenger believes they have addressed that problem this term. Certainly, hard-fought victories at Watford and Wigan in the past month suggest that this young Arsenal squad can no longer be bullied. However, Wenger is concerned that teams who cannot match Arsenal's technical ability go over the top in their attempts to stop his team.
"Do I mind being outmuscled? It depends what you call 'outmuscle'," said Wenger. "If it's a physical game, and they show more commitment and want it more than us, then it's OK. I don't have any problems with the opposing managers. They tell their teams to be absolutely committed and I find that right. But it's down to the referees to set how far they can go."
Copyright 2015 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 5 Jan 2007