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."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam