Arsenal battled and scuffled their way to a gritty 1-0 Premier League victory over Sunderland at the weekend. Santi Cazorla’s first-half goal was the difference between the two teams but all the Sunday morning headlines centred around manager Arsene Wenger’s strong condemnation of some of the tackles from the home side.
In particular, midfield dynamo Jack Wilshere was on the end of a number of rash tackles from the likes of Sunderland enforcer Alfred N’Diaye. Wilshere was forced off in the second-half of the match after a coming together with N’Diaye and Wenger took exception to referee Anthony Taylor’s lenient approach.
Speaking after the game, Wenger said: “I
Wenger has had an often turbulent relationship with the men in the middle. In March last year, he was handed a three match ban by UEFA after allegedly swearing at referee Damir Skomina during Arsenal’s Champions League exit to Milan, just one of a host of misdemeanours by Wenger towards officials.
But on the subject of over-enthusiastic tackling and overly physical play, Arsenal and Wenger have often had justification for their objections. Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross somewhat infamously inflicted a double fracture to the leg of Aaron Ramsey with a horror challenge in 2010.
But Wenger’s constant grievances about robust tackling from opposition teams can grate a little – especially when it refers to challenges which are far from horrific.
Rather, the Gunners should put up with other teams targeting them physically – and even take it as a compliment. If teams such as Sunderland and Stoke City feel that such tactics are the only way to deal with the likes of Wilshere, Cazorla and Theo Walcott, then they are entitled to do so, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the rules of the game.
However that should not excuse referees from enforcing the rules of the game. As Wenger asserted, some of the Black Cats tackles crossed the mark and should have been punished.
In their halcyon days, the north London club were no strangers to the rough and tumble side of football with Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva getting stuck in on a regular basis.
Arsenal are a very different side nowadays made up of very different components. But perhaps if Wenger focuses on the durability of his own side, the existence of easy-going referees will be a non-issue. Maybe it could help the glory days return too.
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