Some Premier League matches are instantly forgettable, others fester and Stoke City's win over Arsenal on Saturday has fallen firmly into the latter category. Tony Pulis, the victorious manager, continued the bitter fall-out yesterday by criticising Arsène Wenger, who had been critical of the coverage given to his side following the match and of Stoke's tactics during it, claiming the home side had deliberately tried to injure his players.
"In Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday evening, Mr Wenger talked openly about Arsenal's encounter with Stoke as being a 'typical English encounter'," Pulis said. "He commended my team's organisation, my team's commitment and confessed that on the day Stoke City thoroughly deserved to win the game. Very open and very honest.
"In London 48 hours later and 150 miles away from Stoke-on-Trent, Mr Wenger changed tack and has tried to rewrite history. Remember there was only one red card on Saturday and the last time I watched the game it certainly was not a Stoke City player who received it." It was Arsenal's Robin Van Persie, who was dismissed for a shove on the Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Pulis insisted there was no way his players would deliberately set out to injure opponents. "As for Rory Delap's challenges on Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna, Rory is as honest and committed as they come," he added. "They were free-kicks, but Rory would never purposely go out to injure a fellow professional, it's just not in Rory's nature. Further, as I recall the game, Emmanuel Adebayor was booked for a chest-high challenge on Ryan Shawcross."
The Stoke City chairman Peter Coates strongly rejected Wenger's claims that his team played in a dirty manner. "I'm very disappointed because I don't think that's the case at all," Coates said. "We don't play like that. We are not that sort of team.
"I'm sure that none of our players would deliberately go out to injure anyone, so it is most disappointing to hear someone like Arsène Wenger make that comment but that is up to him. That wasn't the game I saw, it wasn't the game the fans at the ground saw and it wasn't the game that the referee saw," Coates added.
Wenger had previously complained that Shawcross had deliberately fouled Adebayor when he was off the pitch and that Delap had fouled Walcott and Sagna intentionally. Walcott has a shoulder injury and Sagna an ankle problem.
Adebayor's ankle problem will rule him out for three weeks. He missed last night's match against Fenerbahce and is also ruled out of the Gunners' most important League game of the season thus far, the home match against Manchester United on Saturday. With Van Persie banned and Eduardo also still injured, Arsenal have a paucity of talent at their disposal for such a crucial match.
Adebayor will also miss at least two more domestic and European matches. Wenger was furious with Stoke's physical tactics in Arsenal's 2-1 loss. "All the players have been injured deliberately," Wenger had said. "The only intention is to hurt you and I can show some tackles where I can prove what I say. The one who is tackling is not the brave one. For me the brave one is the player who is trying to play football."
While Adebayor is out for three weeks, the other players should be back sooner. "Walcott could be days or weeks. It is the shoulder he had the surgery on," he said. We don't know about [William] Gallas." Gallas missed the Stoke game with a hamstring problem and did not start against Fenerbahce but could be in contention for the Manchester United match at the weekend.
In the immediate aftermath of the game Wenger admitted his team could not cope with Stoke's aerial threat. "Yes, we had a plan, of course," Wenger said of Stoke's tactics, including the long throws from Delap. "We worked on it a lot. But those kind of goals, straight into the box with 20 people there, it is not our greatest strength to deal with that. We were punished, but at the end of the day Stoke deserved their victory."