Mr Ruthless reveals a taste for fair play

FA Cup sensation: why winning is not always everything

THERE IS more than a touch of irony about Arsene Wenger, the Frenchman who arrived in England to take charge at Arsenal three years ago, being cast in the role as the saviour of old-fashioned English fair play.

His prompt, sporting gesture yesterday of offering an FA Cup replay to Sheffield United after a disputed goal belies his reputation as a ruthless, win-at-all-costs operator, whose team is not afraid to mix aggression with flair.

Last season, Arsenal, led by reformed alcoholic Tony Adams, won the Premier League and FA Cup "double" - making Wenger, 48, one of the leading contenders for the vacant England manager's job.

His ruthless streak is well-known, particularly since he fought with the Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, through the pages of the tabloids. Indeed, his view of the game is singularly uncompromising. "We are not a dirty side but a fair side. This game is about physical contact." he said in 1997. "I want positive aggression. If you're too soft, you don't win many games."

Wenger was born in the Alsace region of France, and exudes the somewhat clipped, austere manner associated with its citizens, as well as their Germanic thoroughness. An economics graduate of Strasbourg University who speaks seven languages, he is unmarried, partly, he claims, because of football. "This is a very demanding job where there never seems to be enough time," he once said ruefully. "My pleasure comes out on the field - a nice pitch, a ball and good players."

But winning at Arsenal has come at a price. The team boasts one of the worst disciplinary records in the Premier League, with six players sent off this season, including Frenchman Emmanuel Petit twice. Wenger has always been fiercely defensive of his players' indiscretions, claiming that they are victims of their own success.

But he has also been criticised for axing home-grown players, such as former-star-turned-chat-show-host Ian Wright, in favour of his fellow countrymen. Last season, Wenger left Wright out of the final game, the showpiece FA Cup Final against Newcastle United at Wembley, in favour of the teenage French striker Nicholas Anelka - a move which left Wright, the club's record goal scorer, heartbroken. In 1997, he also sold reformed alcoholic and drug addict Paul Merson for pounds 4.5m, angering fans who had stood by the player during his well-publicised difficulties. And he has been accused of poaching players as young as 15 as he bids to secure Arsenal's future.

But last night, Football Association chiefs, desperate to find a new role model for the game in the wake of Glenn Hoddle's resignation and allegations of match-fixing, were swift to pay tribute to the Frenchman. "Everybody welcomes the sporting gesture by Arsene Wenger. He is to be congratulated," said David Davies, the FA's acting chief executive.

Wenger was equally magnanimous. Shortly after the match, he said: "We have the feeling we didn't win the game like we want to win our games. Spirit-wise we did not want to cheat. The best we can do now is to offer to replay the game here against Sheffield United."

Steve Bruce, who manages Sheffield United, said: "It's just what I'd expect from the mighty Arsenal." And, it might be argued, from the man who leads them.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?