Wenger fears 'rugby' match against Blackburn

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger is fully prepared for Arsenal to face another physical test at Blackburn on Saturday - but maintains it is the referee's responsibility to stop the match descending into "rugby".

The Gunners - whom Wenger today revealed had completed the signing of experienced French defender Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla - lost 2-1 at Ewood Park last May.

Afterwards 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 maintains there must be limits.

"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," said Wenger.

"I saw some pictures last Sunday; you cannot say any more 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 any more.

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

"Apart from that, when a team play 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, that is all."

Chris Foy is set to take charge of tomorrow's televised lunchtime encounter.

Wenger maintains the referees must uphold their first duty, to ensure player safety.

"I believe that in some situations the goalkeepers are not protected," the Arsenal manager 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 tomorrow 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.

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

"We are where we are - we have four great keepers and it is important we give confidence to them for the next game," Wenger said.

"I do not rule it out, but at the moment I say I am not in a position to sign anybody. At the moment, it is all dead."

Wenger, though, indicated players could still move overseas - with full-back Armand Traore looking set to leave for Benfica.

"I believe the transfer window should have been over already for a long time, because it should stop when the championship starts for domestic transfers, internationally it should go on until August 31 because not everybody starts at the same time," the Arsenal manager said.