Now Wenger seizes moral high ground

Referees chief will apologise after Frenchman is forced to climb into stands at Old Trafford

Arsène Wenger has stepped up the diving controversy which has engulfed his club by hinting that the Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher is guilty of a far greater crime than simulating a foul: deliberately and repeatedly making illegal challenges on other players.

Wenger's comments, which came as the head of the referees body Keith Hackett prepared to apologise to the Arsenal manager for his dismissal over a bottle-kicking incident after United's winner at Old Trafford, followed the refusal of Arsenal's strong penalty shout for Fletcher's clattering challenge on Andrei Arshavin in Saturday's 2-1 defeat.

"There are other points that for me are more urgent [than diving] – players who play only to make fouls and who are never punished," Wenger said. "Who make repeated fouls, and are never punished. And who get out of the game without a yellow card. That for me is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did."

Wenger, whose words are likely to signal an abrupt end to the détente between himself and Fletcher's manager Sir Alex Ferguson, was asked whether he was referring to Fletcher, the one United player who consistently challenged, legally or otherwise, the control of the middle line of Arsenal's 4-3-3, Emmanuel Eboué, Denilson and Abou Diaby. "Why do you say the name?" asked Wenger with a dry smile.

He was also asked: "Why do they get away with it and Arsenal don't?" He replied: "I don't know. You should ask the question to the referees. Look at how many deliberate fouls some players make and get away with. I think it's a bigger problem because it cuts the flow of the game. People come and pay to see football, they do not come to see free-kicks. I don't know [if United set out deliberately to foul Arsenal]. You will have to ask them."

Fletcher was certainly lucky to go unpunished at least once in a match in which nine players were booked and in which Wenger was sent from the dug-out after intervention from the fourth official Lee Probert, who issued seven yellow cards in Everton's 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic yesterday. The dismissal, after Probert called over the referee Mike Dean, provoked a ludicrous situation when Wenger found himself with nowhere to go. Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association has spoken to Hackett and been told that Wenger will receive an apology from the Premier Game Match Officials Board.

Bevan said: "Although correct in 'law', it was completely out of context in the game and it was followed by the nonsense over where Arsène Wenger should sit. Lee Probert totally failed to manage the situation and created a needless pressure point taking the focus from what was happening on the pitch."

The Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez said that in the circumstances Probert should not have officiated at Goodison Park: "The performance of the referee is something we should put aside, but maybe they should give the referee some time and space and it wasn't ideal for him to be refereeing this game."

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect