Barcelona's wooing of Henry riles Wenger

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The Independent Online

It is probably fair to say that Barcelona did not receive a Christmas card from London N5 this year. As he demonstrated yesterday, Arsène Wenger is becoming increasingly exercised by the Catalan club's ever more heavy-handed flirtation with Thierry Henry.

Coming just a few days after a perceived insult from the Arsenal manager to his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho over a yuletide missive, the Frenchman is having an unhappy build-up to the festive season.

On Monday night, Joan Laporta, the Barcelona chairman, announced to a fans' forum he would try and sign Arsenal's most highly-valued asset. Asked for his reaction to this, Wenger said: "No, I am not happy with them. They have broken a code of behaviour.

"I don't know if I will do anything about it because first I have to check the statement made by the Barcelona chairman.

"If the reports are correct then I feel it is not very respectful towards us. I don't know yet if I will make an official complaint about Barcelona. I have to speak to my directors first.

"But I am worried. If they want to sign him all they have to do is call me because [Henry] has one-and-a-half years left on his contract.

"I hope to do something about it because it is unfair and unsettling. I don't care who you are, if you are from Barcelona or Doncaster [who Arsenal beat in the Carling Cup on Wednesday] you must respect the rules."

Henry, 28, has refused to sign an extension to his contract, claiming he will discuss the situation at the end of the season. If he does not sign next summer it will leave Arsenal with very little option but to cash in on the World Cup winner if they want to see any return on the player they paid £8m to Juventus for in 1999.

Reflecting on the row that bubbled up on Sunday, Wenger called the dispute over Chelsea's Christmas card to Arsenal "ridiculous". He and Mourinho did not shake hands after the Blues' 2-0 win at Highbury and it emerged the Portuguese believed Wenger had questioned whether the Chelsea manager had actually written the words in his Christmas card message.

But Wenger, who said his team's run of three defeats in a row was a far more serious issue, did add: "Nothing went on. I find it ridiculous. I am aware of this card, but [it] has been treated like a CIA bomb.

"It is a little bit surprising. Nothing really happened. We got this card and we didn't make a fuss of it. We didn't blank anybody. I just went to the game and I was ready to talk to anybody after the game about anything. I'd never talk to a rival manager before a game.

"I appreciated the sentiment in the card. It was an apology [over Mourinho's 'voyeur' comments] but I had no pre-conceived ideas or resentment because once I said 'it's over', it's over.

"And if a card had come in or not, it would not change how I feel." Pressed on the whereabouts of the card, Wenger was not sure and joked: "I don't want to make a fuss about the story because it is a non-story. I don't know where the card is. I could give it for charity."

Arsenal's recent opponents have been less charitable, leading to their slump to eighth in the Premiership and Wenger was still angry about referee Rob Styles' failure to send off Michael Essien at the weekend.

Chelsea's Ghanaian was booked for an elbow on Lauren and then fouled Robin van Persie. "He should've been sent off," Wenger said. "I can show you the tape. You watch the second foul he makes. It should have been at least two yellows. How can the second card not be a yellow?"

Wenger takes his team to Charlton on Boxing Day with an injury doubt over Henry and Van Persie, although Jose Antonio Reyes should be fit to replace the Dutchman.

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