England will suffer most at Wembley, says Wenger

Arsenal manager warns national side that problem pitch can never be fixed

Arsene Wenger claimed yesterday that the state of the Wembley pitch was so bad it could potentially damage the prospects of the England team and asked why the Football Association had spent £757m on a stadium without getting the most basic component right.

In an outspoken attack that echoed Sir Alex Ferguson's on Sunday, Wenger, whose Arsenal team play Liverpool at Anfield tonight, said that the Wembley pitch was the "worst" in the country and demonstrated a lack of "respect" to the supporters who paid to watch the FA Cup semi-finals.

Wenger said: "If you go to a dentist and he says, 'Listen, I have a tool but it's from the 1950s' then you go to a dentist with a modern instrument. Football is the same. If they try to make you play on a pitch of 20 or 30 years ago then anyone would prefer to play on a new, modern pitch. If the pitch is not right nothing else matters."

The dispute over the state of the Wembley pitch has reached the stage where it threatens to overshadow the FA Cup final on 30 May, with the FA having admitted that there is nothing it can do about the state of the surface before then. The FA said yesterday that it plans to relay the pitch – the fifth new surface it has used since the original was first played upon almost two years ago – before the Community Shield game in August.

The new pitch will not come in time for England's World Cup qualifier against Andorra on 10 June and Wenger warned that it could have a negative impact on the team. "Everybody will come to England with their national team and it will handicap the national team," Wenger said. "Of course it's handicapping the national team, because do you think Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney don't want to play on a good pitch? Of course they want to play on a good pitch.

"It's the worst pitch. In the Premier League, it's 21st position," he added. "Did you see a good game at Wembley on Sunday? You saw a game with very little chances. Have you seen the Carling Cup final? You saw a game with very little chances. It [the pitch] slows the game down and everyone has a chance to come back in the right position because you have to control the ball instead of playing it one-touch and the whole game becomes slower."

The FA explained yesterday that it has been unable to use the turf favoured by the majority of Premier League clubs including Arsenal – designed by Desso Sports Systems – because the concerts and events staged at Wembley make it incompatible with the stadium. Desso pitches have a higher artificial content than Wembley's seeded pitch, but the former take three months to bed in. With Wembley staging everything from AC/DC concerts to rally car races, there would be no time for a Desso pitch to settle.

Wenger said it was too late now for the FA to alter the design of Wembley to accommodate a better pitch. "We got it right at the Emirates because we sat down with the architect when we built the stadium and said the first priority was to get the pitch right and the whole design of the stadium was made so the pitch was perfect.

"Before everybody wanted to play at Wembley because the pitch was so special. Now, nobody wants to play at Wembley because the pitch is bad. When you spend £757m, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a good pitch."

The FA has indicated that the five pitches the stadium has been through so far have been a process of trial and error and that the next one – to be laid after an Oasis concert in July – should be the best yet. The cost of the stadium means that the business plan involves extra events to fund the borrowing to rebuild it. However, using Wembley for the "Race of Champions" event in December, which involved laying an asphalt track, was questioned by Ferguson yesterday.

The United manager said: "Someone told me on Saturday that they had had speedway or some form of motorcycling on it. So, if they are changing the pitch all the time, then it is going to be difficult to bed it down and make it a true pitch. It looked to me on Saturday heavy and slow and that was the feeling all my players had in yesterday's game – spongy, dead."

Ferguson will be less pleased by Wenger's announcement that Emmanuel Adebayor will be rested for tonight's Premier League game because he is suffering pain from an old hamstring injury but should be fit to play against United in the Champions League next week. Adebayor, as well as Robin van Persie, will miss the match because of a recurrence of pain in the tendon.

Turf war Roots of Wembley's problem surface

The new Wembley Stadium opened on 24 March 2007 and it was not long before the state of the pitch was criticised by players and managers.

The turgid 2007 FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United was blamed on the pitch, while the then England goalkeeper Paul Robinson expressed misgivings over the surface after a friendly with Brazil the following month. The American football match the stadium hosted that October was notable for the pitch cutting up, leading the Croatia manager, Slaven Bilic, to voice concerns ahead of the European Championship qualifier a month later. "The pitch is not in the condition that Wembley used to be known for," he said. "The top looks soft, but underneath it is hard, so it is very slippery, like ice."

The high stands of the new stadium do not allow much sunlight on to a pitch which has been relaid five times, most recently in January following December's "Race of Champions" – an asphalt track was constructed – and a rugby match between Australia and the Barbarians, in which a number of players picked up injuries.

Last weekend's FA Cup semi-finals followed two England matches and two cup finals in recent weeks, and the stadium's immediate schedule includes nine football matches – including next month's FA Cup final – and eight concert dates, before the pitch is relaid on 9 August for the Community Shield. The Football Association said yesterday: "The grounds team has made continual improvements to the pitch. Whilst recent changes have seen improvements, we accept further improvements [need] to be made."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living