Arsenal question wisdom of walk-offs provoked by racists

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger revealed yesterday that in his early years as a coach losing upset him so much he was physically sick. Tonight he hopes he will not be morally sickened.

Arsene Wenger revealed yesterday that in his early years as a coach losing upset him so much he was physically sick. Tonight he hopes he will not be morally sickened.

There is a vital Champions' League tie taking place in the Philips Stadion tonight but at least as much attention is being paid to the behaviour of the supporters as the performances of the players.

Two years ago Arsenal won here 4-0 but their black players were abused during the game. In the context of England's match in Madrid that memory has become a very live issue with the referee, Herbert Fandel, threatening to take the teams off the pitch if there is a repeat.

Wenger yesterday said he would be against such a response. "I think it is wrong," he said. "If you play at home and are losing the racial chants will start. Then when can you finish a game? If the referee says we walk off I would, I do not make the rules. But it does not look like a solution with a reasonable outcome. We have a job to do to entertain people who come for the game, the 90 per cent who don't chant anything, and you have to respect them."

PSV were fined £21,000 after 2002 and their head of security, Frank Vijnveld, said the club did not expect a repeat having worked hard on the problem. "We want to welcome Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and the other Arsenal players and assure them there will not be problems."

Fandel, a German music school principal, said: "Racism can't be tolerated in football and perhaps a last resort would be to stop the match." He did not, however, intervene in 2002 when Valencia fans abused Emile Heskey, then of Liverpool.

Wenger added that he feared the publicity surrounding the issue could lead to problems which would be exacerbated if the game was stopped. "If, outside the stadium there are 20 people killed because there is a riot, whose responsibility is that?" Wenger has his own problems with team selection. Sol Campbell, out for seven matches with an Achilles tendon injury, could be rushed back into the team.

"Ideally we would have waited a little bit longer but we need a little bit of assurance at centre-back and he can give it to us," said Wenger who will give Campbell a late test. Dennis Bergkamp has not travelled, by car or otherwise, due to a sore Achilles.

A victory will put Arsenal through to the knock-out stages regardless of the result between Rosenborg and Panathinaikos in Norway. A defeat and they will be left needing the Greeks to drop points if they are to maintain control of their destiny. "We were in a worse situation 12 months ago [when Arsenal won 5-1 at Internazionale] but we must face the situation in the same way. We must try to win," Wenger said.

Wenger admitted his team's recent inability to retain a lead had affected them. "When we are leading we do not really go forward, we do not really defend, and there is nothing worse in football than not knowing what to do." Nevertheless he remained confident he would not be reaching for the sick bag on tonight's flight back to Luton.

"I hate to lose and it affects me really deeply," said Wenger, "I feel it physically. I was sick when I started my career but I have learned to cope with it. But tonight I am sure we will have a good performance."

PSV Eindhoven (4-3-1-2, probable): Gomes; Alex, Ooijer, Bouma, Lee; Vogel, Cocu, van Bommel; Beasley; Park, Sibon.

Arsenal (4-4-2, probable): Lehmann; Lauren, Touré, Campbell or Cygan, Cole; Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Pires; Reyes, Henry.

Referee: H Fandel (Germany).

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