"Adebayor's challenge on Van Persie looks very bad. You ask 100 people, 99 will say it's very bad and the 100th will be Mark Hughes."
With that sideways swipe at the Manchester City manager, Arsène Wenger launched into a blistering attack on his former striker, Emmanuel Adebayor, who was yesterday charged with violent conduct by the Football Association relating to his apparent stamp on Robin van Persie during Saturday's ill-tempered match at Eastlands. The FA also charged Adebayor with improper conduct for his goal celebration in front of the Arsenal fans.
Of the foul, which left Van Persie nursing facial and hand wounds, Wenger said yesterday: "He deserved to be charged. When I saw it on video I was shocked. I think it was a very bad challenge, surprisingly bad. With human beings you can never rule anything out, good or bad, but I didn't expect him to do that. When you go to the head, you are always scared for people. You never know how it will affect their health."
City have until 6pm today to respond to the violent conduct charge which was laid after referee Mark Clattenberg confirmed he had not seen the incident and would have dismissed Adebayor if he had. If found guilty, Adebayor will receive a three-match ban. This would rule him out of the weekend's Manchester derby, a match for which Hughes is already without Robinho and, probably, Carlos Tevez. He would also miss a Carling Cup tie against Fulham and the Premier League visit of West Ham.
After the match, Adebayor claimed: "I was trying to kick the ball. My feet touch his head. I feel sorry for him. Straight away, and at the end of the game, I said sorry."
Van Persie subsequently issued a statement in which he denied any such apology was forthcoming and said he was "sad and disappointed" by Adebayor's "mindless and malicious stamp". The Dutchman added: "He set out to hurt me. I do feel lucky that I have not received a greater injury. The contact was only centimetres from my eye."
Wenger – who said Adebayor had not been in touch with the club – added he backed Van Persie's powerful choice of words. He said: "If somebody stamps on your head in that way, you wouldn't say, 'thank you very much' and turn the other cheek. Only Jesus Christ did that."
Wenger added: "I believe he did it on purpose." When asked if he had any doubt that there was malice intended, the Arsenal manager said: "Well, why do you think the FA charged him? I've watched football for 20 years, I played football, and I know when you have mastered your body's movements, in a fraction of a second you can injure somebody, or not injure somebody, and you ease off or you leave in.
"In England, you have many cases where the players leave in, less now than 10 years ago. Then, there were challenges where if you did that in the street you would go to jail."
Adebayor's challenge was not, he said, akin to the tackle by Martin Taylor, of Birmingham, which put Arsenal's Eduardo out of the game for a year. After that Eduardo did not issue a condemnatory statement but Wenger said: "You have more doubt in that case, in my opinion. In Eduardo's case, it was an act of clumsiness and timing. I don't think the two things are comparable."
Having transformed Adebayor from a raw £4m talent to a £25m forward, Wenger said he was saddened at the player's attitude towards Arsenal. "I was surprised and shocked there was such animosity, as in a few years he will realise Arsenal have been great for him. In the long term he will realise Arsenal was a very positive influence in his life."
Wenger, who was speaking ahead of Arsenal's Champions League tie against Standard Liège, would not comment on Adebayor's pre-match assertion that Wenger had forced him out because Arsenal needed the transfer fee, but he did say: "In going to Manchester City I don't think [Adebayor] has gone short of money."
A separate date will be arranged for a commission to consider the charge of improper conduct against Adebayor. City are more likely to contest this charge. The issue has been clouded after a City fan made a complaint to Greater Manchester Police over Van Persie's own goal celebration. It is alleged he mouthed a swear word towards the home fans. The police say they will speak to the supporter and then decide whether to investigate. The police and both clubs have also been asked by the FA to identify supporters involved in any violent and aggravating behaviour with a view to them being prosecuted. One steward received a head injury.Reuse content