The sports minister, Richard Caborn, has told Jose Mourinho and Arsène Wenger to "grow up" after their fall-out descended into farce over a Christmas card. Mourinho was criticised for failing to shake hands with Wenger in the wake of Chelsea's 2-0 weekend victory at Highbury.
However, it has now been revealed the Chelsea manager was angered by the perceived snub of a goodwill message sent to his Arsenal counterpart in a Christmas card. Mourinho had written an apology to the Frenchman for any hurt caused by his ill-judged "voyeur" comment and was hoping that could heal the fractious relationship between the two managers.
However, a member of the Arsenal back-room staff is reported to have asked before Sunday's game whether Mourinho had actually written the card. Mourinho was also expecting Wenger shake his hand before the game, but this never materialised and the Chelsea manager took umbrage and hurried down the tunnel at the final whistle.
Caborn said: "What happens in the ground on a Saturday happens in the playground on a Monday. [People] in football are role models and have got to act accordingly. It is a powerful game and in that sense we must take our responsibility seriously. I would say 'grow up'. A lot of people aspire to be like you. It is better to be a good role model than a bad role model."
While Caborn is not impressed with the behaviour off the field, Kolo Touré, the Arsenal defender, insists that if his side play like they did against Chelsea they will turn their faltering season around. "We have big games coming up," Touré said ahead of tonight's Carling Cup quarter-final against Doncaster, "and we need to have a big response. The team spirit is still strong. If we do the same job as we did against Chelsea, it will help us to win against other teams."
The Ivory Coast international also played down his heated argument with Freddie Ljungberg as tempers flared briefly during Arsenal's recent defeat by Newcastle. "Of course, it doesn't mean anything bad at all. I saw in the newspapers the next day that they were saying we were angry with each other.
"We were, but after the game it was forgotten about. We are a family here, we are like brothers. Anybody who has a brother or a sister will know what I am talking about. After it happened against Newcastle, that's it, it was finished. We are family here at Arsenal and we care passionately about the team."
Wenger certainly needs more of that passion and commitment, having seen his players fail to cope with the physical approach of teams like Newcastle, Bolton and Chelsea. Touré nevertheless insisted: "When teams play against Arsenal they try harder. Sometimes they foul us. It's not good but what can you do? We just work harder."
As for the defeat by Chelsea, he preferred to concentrate on his side's close calls - when Thierry Henry hit the post and Robin van Persie's effort was wrongly disallowed for offside.
"I'm unhappy as we played well and Chelsea were really lucky to score their two goals. We were unlucky with our chances and hit the post," Touré said. "We played against a good team and it was difficult but we did well. But we lost so I'm disappointed."
Touré will be interested to note the admission by the referees' chief, Keith Hackett, that Van Persie's 'goal' should have stood - and put Arsenal 1-0 ahead.
Hackett, contacted after the game by Arsenal, said: "They wanted to know if I'd instructed officials to change their style of refereeing. I think they were concerned about one or two liberal aspects of the game."
Of Van Persie's disallowed goal, Hackett said: "For the offside decision, I was able to confirm this was not a correct decision by the assistant referee. Clearly we have a difficult law and interpretations of accuracy.
"In a fraction of a second, the assistant referee puts up his flag in the belief that Thierry Henry becomes active from a passive position. But when you examine the video many times, you can see Henry is not active."Reuse content