The season is only two games old but Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, has already attacked what he described as "rugby" tactics by Stoke City.
Wenger said yesterday that the referee Chris Foy should not have tolerated the tactics of Stoke on the Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes on Saturday, in a comment that is bound to wind up one of his many Premier League detractors, the Stoke manager Tony Pulis. Wenger also picked out as an offender the defender Ryan Shawcross, whose challenge last season broke the leg of the Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
Wenger said: "I believe everybody looks at his squad and tries to find a way where the game is most efficient and we developed one way. It is not the only way, I respect every other way as long as the referees get the rules respected. [But] I saw some footage last Sunday; you cannot say any more it is football, it is rugby on the goalkeepers [rather] than football.
"The referees cannot go on and accept that. When you see how [Ryan] Shawcross kicked Gomes, how [Robert] Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football any more. If the referees allow that, you cannot accept that because that has nothing to do with the game," said Wenger. "Apart from that, when a team plays long ball and head the ball and become physical I accept that completely and I respect that. But it has to be in respect of the rules."
There is no love lost between Wenger and Sam Allardyce, the manager of Blackburn, whom Arsenal face tomorrow tomorrow. Wenger said that teams who were overphysical should be punished. "I believe that in some situations the goalkeepers are not protected," he said. "You cannot have players whose main role is to stop the goalkeepers from catching the ball and not even go for the ball."
Wenger also said that he had abandoned his rule that he never gave a player in his thirties a contract longer than one year after he completed the €4m (£3.3m) signing of the 30-year-old France international Sébastian Squillaci on a three-year deal from Seville.
It has, in the past, been source of frustration for former Arsenal players like Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp that they have not been offered a longer-term deal. Wenger has always preferred to review their situation every year and make a decision then whether to extend their contract, although he argued yesterday that had never been the case.
Wenger said it was now players of 32 and over who would not be offered anything more than one-year contracts. He said his criteria also depended on what position the player in question played. "If is a central defender, no problem to sign them until 34," Wenger said. "But a striker is different – after 32 you go from year to year. Midfielder as well after 32 you go from year to year."
When quizzed, the Arsenal manager could not name the only other outfield players aged 30 or over – other than Squillaci – for whom he has paid a transfer fee during his 14 years at Arsenal. They are thought to be Davor Suker, Oleg Luzhny and Mikaël Silvestre. "I'm not a big fan of over-thirties, you know!' Wenger said.
On Squillaci, Wenger said: "We needed a centre-back of quality and experience if possible, and at the right price – he was all of that. He is a real defender and is good in the one against one, good in the air, and can score goals on set-pieces as well. I believe he will be suited to the English game.'
As for the transfer market this summer, Wenger, who still hopes to sign the Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, described it as "dead". "It has been incredibly difficult," he said. "The clubs who had players didn't want to see and therefore there was no movement. I don't know if it's the 25-player squad rule or is it the money situation? Just no movement. It's dead."