Wenger breaks his silence to accept Pardew's apology

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The Independent Online

Arsène Wenger's habitual charm and sangfroid had returned after a victory which may turn out to define his side's season, and the Arsenal manager felt able to express regret over the previous Sunday's touchline contretremps with his West Ham counterpart, Alan Pardew.

Wenger had made his first public reference to the incident, which has left both managers facing an Football Association charge, in his programme notes, where he commented: "I had my reasons... I will give my explanation for what happened when the time comes, but I will say that there is always a reason for a reaction."

No further clues as to that reason were offered after a victory that saw his side rise to third in the table, albeit 10 points adrift of the leaders, Manchester United. But Wenger did expand on his own emotions and acknowledged the fact that Pardew had apologised immediately after the confrontation.

What the Arsenal manager did not do, conspicuously, was add his own apology. "I think that Alan Pardew apologised because he was concerned that I felt provoked in my area," Wenger said. "I reacted, and I regret it because you should never react. For the rest, I accept his apology and life goes on. It was a heated incident, and it wasn't the first time in English football, and I hope this is not the last one."

Asked if he felt the FA had been justified in initiating proceedings that could see both managers heavily fined, he responded with another smile: "I don't know. But Wembley is in need of some sponsors... I regret that I reacted. The rest now can only be boring and a waste of time.

"I am not especially looking forward to visiting the FA. But after 22 years on the bench I didn't accept what happened, and I know if I was right or I was wrong."

Wenger added that he had not had any contact with Pardew since the incident. "I don't need to speak to him," he said. "I said that for me the incident is over and for me, that's it." He denied that his failure to speak to the media for the past week had anything to do with the incident at Upton Park.

"I ask for a one-week holiday with the media after 10 years," he said with a smile. "That should be understandable enough. I think what I decided was probably for the right reasons. It was purely for sporting reasons."

Pardew has been known to wind people up in the past. In his lauded account of a season playing for Charlton in 1994-95, Left Foot Forward, Garry Nelson refers to a training session where Pardew, then his team-mate, jokingly referred to him as "Grandad" when he became the oldest member of the squad.

"Alan's humour has real bite and he shoots really straight," Nelson wrote. "There aren't too many who escape being its target once they've laid themselves open to a corrective put-down."

Did Pardew allow this mischievous character trait to surface again at a moment least likely to amuse his Arsenal counterpart? All may yet be revealed. But it is hard to imagine circumstances which would have justified the normally urbane Frenchman acting in such peevish fashion.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, was as tight-lipped as one might expect. He conceded that the performance was "not good enough".

Asked to comment on the apparent argument between Steven Gerrard and John Arne Riise after the third goal, when the Liverpool captain appeared to offer the full-back his armband, Benitez simply shook his head. For the visitors, it was a very bad day all round.

Travails on their travels

* 19 August: Sheffield Utd 1 Liverpool 1

* 9 September: Everton 3 Liverpool 0

* 17 September: Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0

* 30 September: Bolton 2 Liverpool 0

* 22 October: Man Utd 2 Liverpool 0

* 12 November: Arsenal 3 Liverpool 0

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