Arsène Wenger yesterday launched a blistering attack on Uefa for what he called the "witch-hunt" mentality that has led to a potential two-match ban for Eduardo da Silva for his dive against Celtic. The Arsenal manager said that the level of condemnation for Eduardo was as if "he had killed somebody".
Speaking shortly after Uefa announced that Eduardo had been charged for the dive that earned Arsenal a penalty in the Champions League qualifier on Wednesday night, Wenger called Uefa "a complete disgrace". He suggested that Scots working at Uefa – presumably the general secretary David Taylor – had made sure that Eduardo was charged and the case against the player was unjustified and unprecedented.
The Brazilian who plays for Croatia has been accused by the governing body of "deceiving the referee". His case will be heard on Tuesday and, if proven, he will be banned for Arsenal's first two Champions League group stage matches. Wenger admitted that the furore around the player has caused him to question whether he should select Eduardo for today's Premier League game against Manchester United.
Nevertheless, the Arsenal manager said that his team would not use the Eduardo saga as an excuse against United. He joked that the Uefa delegates had suffered a collective delusion during their annual trip to the south of France. "The case has become so emotional. They [Uefa] are all in Monaco on holiday, maybe they got inspired by the blue skies, the beach and they suddenly made erratic decisions."
The Arsenal manager said that the rules had been changed to charge Eduardo and as a result the decisions of a referee on the pitch were no longer sacrosanct. "They have opened a door here that means every single decision made by a referee from now on can be challenged," he said. "They have opened a very dangerous door there."
Today's game was something of an afterthought for Wenger for much of yesterday as he railed against the injustice he perceives in Eduardo's charge. Wenger has a special bond with all his players but he seems especially defensive about Eduardo, who suffered a horrific leg break and dislocation against Birmingham City in February 2008.
Wenger made reference to that injury when he explained why he thought Eduardo took evasive action from Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc at the Emirates. "When you have seen his leg, when he has been tackled [in February 2008] I tell you, I don't blame him for getting out the way of the goalkeeper."
He continued: "This is a witch-hunt, not an objective judging of the case. It is a complete disgrace and unacceptable and we will not accept the way Uefa have treated us. This charge implies that Eduardo acted with intent and with a desire to cheat the referee. Having seen the pictures again nothing is conclusive on that. And it singles out a player to be a cheat and that is not acceptable."
Eduardo was charged under Uefa's rules governing the misconduct of players, more specifically, article 10, paragraph 1C – a measure introduced after 2004 that punishes players with a two-match ban for "acting with obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision". The rule has been invoked only once, against Lithuania international Saulius Mikoliunas, for a dive against Scotland in 2007, and Wenger said he believed Eduardo had been victimised.
"It's funny in football because you can break the legs of players and it doesn't cause a debate but this case has been treated all over the world like Eduardo has killed somebody," Wenger said. "This penalty had no impact on the result at all. We were 2-0 up [from the first leg] and we would have won this game anyway. We have been victims of dives from some English players who were not punished so you in the media have a case to answer as well.
"In every club you find cases, like that [Ryan] Babel dive [for Liverpool against Arsenal in the 2007 Champions League quarter-final defeat] and we don't want to claim we're the only victims. Sometimes they happen for us, sometimes against, but this [Eduardo incident] did not have a big impact on the game.
"It is a witch-hunt. What else is it? If you took every game in Europe I could give you 10 cases every week in which Uefa can charge a player. I watch football from all over Europe. Diego Maradona scored with his hand against England in the World Cup and no one charged him."
Arsenal are also aggrieved that the punishment would have been a yellow card rather than a two-match ban had the Spanish referee spotted it on the night. They were only informed yesterday morning of the charge and have to prepare a case in time for Tuesday's hearing with Eduardo joining up for Croatia – ahead of the England game on 9 September – on Monday.
As for Eduardo playing today, Wenger said it had "crossed his mind" to leave him out. "I just imagine him walking out at Old Trafford and the first tackle him going down. There could be some restrictions [problems] there."
As well as the Mikoliunas case, the only similar precedent was the two-match ban given to the Milan goalkeeper Nelson Dida in 2007 for an incident also in a Champions League game against Celtic. Tapped on the chest by a pitch-invading fan he went on to pursue the supporter before essaying a theatrical tumble. He was banned for two games but under a different part of the rules governing "principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship".
Wenger was also not pleased that today's game had been moved back from Monday because of England's Twenty20 matches at the neighbouring Old Trafford. He also said that the England friendly against Slovenia next Saturday had an effect. "They [the Football Association] were scared that the English players – that we don't have – would be tired for the game."
As for United, Wenger compared the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to the summer of 2007 when Thierry Henry left Arsenal.
"It takes time [to adjust]. "Henry was a big weight in the team, no one could refuse to give Thierry Henry the ball so sometimes [when a player like that leaves] the play becomes a bit more diversified."
Taking a dive Fans' reactions from the web
*I fully support the idea of video evidence with a 4th official watching during the game. They would just have to let the ref know he made a mistake and it would not interrupt the flow of the game. Karl - Arsenal-mania
*The reaction to this dive is pathetic. It happens all the time. People saying Eduardo should be banned are ridiculous. This is the Scottish FA spitting out the dummy because one of their teams lost. The reaction to this is well over the top. jamiemaher85 - Toffeetalk
*We need a clampdown on diving, so this is a good result – diving has no place in football. It's supposed to be about skill, not trying to trick the officials. This is cheating, no other way of saying it. *marv* - Digital Spy
Red tide: United's home run
*Manchester United's recent home record against Arsenal
24 Oct 2004 / MU 2 Ars 0 / Prem
1 Dec 2004 / MU 1 Ars 0 / LC
9 Apr 2006 / MU 2 Ars 0 / Prem
17 Sept 2006 / MU 0 Ars 1 / Prem
16 Feb 2008 / MU 4 Ars 0 / FA
13 Apr 2008 / MU 2 Ars 1 / Prem
29 Apr 2009 / MU 1 Ars 0 / CL
16 May 2009 / MU 0 Ars 0 / Prem
*Record in last five years
P8 MU Six wins Arsenal One win D1Reuse content