Wenger defends Arsenal discipline record

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The Independent Online

An uneasy truce may have been declared but the word "sorry" has yet to appear in the peace talks as Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson prepare their teams for the latest instalment of the Premiership's most high-profile feud.

An uneasy truce may have been declared but the word "sorry" has yet to appear in the peace talks as Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson prepare their teams for the latest instalment of the Premiership's most high-profile feud. Arsenal entertain Manchester United at Highbury tomorrow with both managers insisting that they have no reason to apologise in the wake of the "Battle of the Buffet" three months ago.

Arsenal's defeat at Old Trafford in October after a 49-game unbeaten Premiership run ended in ugly scenes in the tunnel as Ferguson was splattered with food during a confrontation between players and staff.

In the aftermath both managers accused opposing players of foul play on the pitch. Ferguson reopened the wounds in an interview in The Independent a fortnight ago and the Premier League was forced to intervene to call a halt to hostilities. At the weekend, however, the two managers showed they remain determined not to give an inch.

While Ferguson emphasised that United had "great discipline" and would go to Highbury "with an absolutely clear conscience", Wenger pointed to his side's disciplinary record this season.

"We have a team which has committed fewer fouls than any other in the League," he said. "Look at the statistics. And we are the team which are the most sinned against. You should worry about the other teams. We are not angels, but statistically there is no reason to worry about us. We are the fairest team in the League."

In truth, the biggest winners of tomorrow night's match will be Chelsea, who are 10 points clear of Arsenal and 11 ahead of United with only 14 games remaining. Chelsea visit Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday. Ferguson agrees that "we have to win on Tuesday and we will be going for it," while Wenger, who says the media have a part to play in not turning tomorrow's match into "a war", insists the title race is far from over.

"I don't deny the importance of Tuesday's game," Wenger said. "It took us some time to recover from Old Trafford, but I feel we are over that now. I feel the winner of this game has a good chance to win the championship. I want us to play well. Everything else around the game is not important. What is important is that you see a good football game. But I promise you the only thing we will try to do is give you one."

Following Ferguson's recent comments about Wenger's behaviour after the defeat at Old Trafford, the Arsenal manager was asked at the weekend whether he was a good loser. "A manager who is a good loser does not survive long in this game," he said. "A good loser is one who loses his job. But I regard myself as a fair loser when a team is better than us."

Both United and Arsenal rested players in Saturday's FA Cup ties. United left Roy Keane out of the 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough, while Mikaël Silvestre and Paul Scholes started on the bench. Ryan Giggs should be fit despite being substituted 25 minutes before the end of a game which restored some confidence after United's midweek setback in the Carling Cup. "We were pretty down after the defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday and wanted to pick ourselves up before Tuesday's game," Wayne Rooney said.

Wenger decided not to give a break to Thierry Henry, who played in the 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. "Sometimes if you rest Thierry before a big match he loses the tempo of the game," Wenger said. "I've rested him once or twice before and it didn't come off. He is better when he's playing every game."

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