Wenger demands protection from referees

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger insists he has no issue with rival manager's setting out to rough up Arsenal - but maintains referees must protect his players.

The Gunners - who have completed the signing of experienced French defender Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla - head to Blackburn tomorrow looking to improve on their last visit.

In the wake of that 2-1 defeat, Wenger berated Rovers for showing "no purpose to play the ball" as they blocked keeper Lukasz Fabianski at every opportunity and also blamed referee Martin Atkinson for not providing his team with more protection.

While the Arsenal manager has no beef with Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce for looking to utilise a more direct approach, Wenger says there must be limits.

"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," said the Arsenal boss.

"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.

"I saw some pictures last Sunday; you cannot say anymore it is football, it is rugby on the goalkeepers [more] than football.

"The referees cannot go on and accept that.

"When you see how [Stoke defender] [Ryan] Shawcross kicked [Tottenham goalkeeper] [Heurelho] Gomes, how [Robert] Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football anymore.

"If the referees allow that you cannot accept that because that has nothing to do with the game."

Chris Foy is set to take charge of tomorrow's televised lunchtime encounter and Wenger says officials must uphold their first duty; to ensure player safety.

"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."

Squillaci, meanwhile, is set to train with his new team-mates today, but will not feature at Ewood Park, where summer signing Laurent Koscielny returns from suspension.

Wenger feels the 30-year-old France international has all the qualities to fit right into the hustle and bustle of the Barclays Premier League.

"We needed a centre-back of quality and experience if possible, and at the right price - he was all of that," said Wenger, who lost the services of William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Sol Campbell and Philippe Senderos during the summer.

"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."

Arsenal have also been linked with Australia international Mark Schwarzer, with Fulham turning down two bids for the 37-year-old goalkeeper.

While Wenger refused to rule out bringing in any more players ahead of the transfer deadline, the Arsenal manager insisted no deals were imminent.

Arsenal were yesterday drawn against Shakhtar Donetsk, Braga and Partizan Belgrade in Group H of the Champions League, which this season will see the final played at Wembley.