By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger wants all teams to cut out violent tackling - including his own.
Jack Wilshere was sent off for a lunge at Birmingham’s Nikola Zigic at the weekend, adding his name to a long list of players who have seen red for reckless challenges this season.
Critics seized upon the apparent irony of an Arsenal player committing a dangerous tackle when their manager has spoken out against the practice for so long.
Some reporters clearly thought that Wenger's argument had been weakened by Wilshere’s intervention but he sees no reason to change his stance. The Frenchman defended his team’s record at his pre-match press conference on Monday but as far as he is concerned the identity of a reckless tackler is irrelevant – he simply wants football to be a cleaner, fairer sport.
“I’m still calling for that; I defend football,” said Wenger. “Whether my players are involved or not doesn’t matter.
“If you look at our record and the number of fouls we have made this season, or look at the Fair Play table in the last five years - you will always find Arsenal in the top two or three. That speaks for the consistency in our behaviour.
“It’s true occasionally we go overboard as well but that does not mean in the longer term our record isn’t fantastic. That is what you have to look at.
“The problem in the modern game is that one incident makes a lifelong story. It’s not like that. You have to look and take a distance with our record and the way we want to play football. You will not find many people in Europe who will tell you Arsenal is a dirty team.”
Wenger criticised violent tackling in his programme notes for the Birmingham game – only for reporters to use them against him in his post-match press conference. So does the Frenchman find that embarrassing?
“You say to me I should rather shut up?” he responded.
“I believe still that what I said is right. If it concerns one of my players, it’s still the same. We’re here to make sure football is played in the right way.
“I don’t say we’re untouchable and that we don’t make mistakes, because we make them as well. But overall I believe we commit very few fouls in the game and we try to play in a fair way. When we make a mistake, we come out and say sorry and we won’t do it again.
“I have no paranoia feelings at all. I think to live in a big club you are more highlighted than other clubs and you have to live with that. As well you have to take a big enough distance to feel if it is true or not.”Copyright 2016 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