Coyle rejects suggestions Arsenal are targeted

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The Independent Football

The Bolton Wanderers manager, Owen Coyle, has dismissed his Arsenal counterpart Arsène Wenger's claim his players are targeted by Premier League opponents.

The Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross' leg-breaking challenge on the young Gunners midfielder Aaron Ramsey at the weekend left Wenger fuming, having previously seen his Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva and his midfielder Abou Diaby suffer similar injuries.

Coyle, however, rejected suggestions Arsenal are specifically given over-the-top treatment by their rivals. "The Arsenal have special players, no doubt about that, but there is no way in the world that anyone would go out to intentionally hurt or maim any player," he said yesterday.

"Ramsey is a terrific talent and is going to be a top player but there's no way that [tackle] was intentional to hurt him."

Coyle said there was a crucial difference between being competitive and reckless. "If you're not motivated to go out there and be aggressive to begin with, to earn the right to play, then you're going to be run over the top of and made to look foolish," he added.

"We all take pride in trying to make our players competitive, to go and earn the right, as we say in football, but there's no way you'd say to one of your players 'Go and smash this and that'."

Coyle had cause for complaint in January over a William Gallas challenge on Bolton's young English midfielder Mark Davies but he admits he saw things slightly differently after a few days' reflection.

"I was angry and disappointed at the time a couple of weeks ago with William Gallas, and your emotions do take over," he told the Bolton News.

"I felt it was a poor challenge but with hindsight I don't think William Gallas intended to hurt Mark, to do damage.

"It was badly timed, just like the other day. The boy Shawcross took a bad touch and I'm not even sure if he knew Ramsey was there.

"It's horrible when any young player gets an injury but it's wrong when people start posting blame and saying that they meant it."