Wenger insists he is a 'defender of football' and no hypocrite over tackling

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, yesterday defended his team's disciplinary record following suggestions he has been hypocritical over his stance on aggressive tackling.

Following Jack Wilshere's dismissal against Birmingham on Saturday, only Bolton and Wolves have a worse record in the Premier League for combined yellow and red cards.

Wenger's comments came on the eve of tonight's Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk when he will be reunited with Eduardo, the Croatia forward whose career at Arsenal was derailed by the serious leg and ankle injury he suffered in 2008 following a challenge by Birmingham's Martin Taylor.

"You will not find many people in Europe who will tell you Arsenal is a dirty team," said the Frenchman. "I'm still calling for it – I defend football. Whether my players are involved or not doesn't matter.

"If you look at our record and the number of fouls we have made this season, look at the fair-play table in the last five years – you will always find Arsenal in the top two or three.

"That speaks for the consistency in our behaviour. It's true occasionally we go overboard as well but that does not mean in the longer term our record isn't fantastic."

Emmanuel Eboué, the Arsenal midfielder, revealed that Wenger rarely urges caution among his players about their own tackling. The 27-year-old Ivory Coast international could have been with Wilshere in the dressing room at the weekend but his "scissor" tackle on Liam Ridgewell was not punished with a red card.

"I didn't go to kill him," said Eboué. "The referee spoke with me after the game and said I touched the ball but it was a very dangerous tackle.

"Our boss knows us very well, we just want to play football and don't kick anyone. The boss never told us about tackles, he just says to play football." Eboué and Wenger were in agreement in their warmth for Eduardo, who left for the Ukraine league leaders in the summer after failing to regain the form he showed before his injury.

"I will be happy and sad to see Eduardo," Wenger said. "I will be happy because he was always a fantastic boy with a fantastic mentality and sad because I worked very hard to get him here and he left with the feeling that he could not completely fulfil the promise he had in the first season.

"That was basically down to the fact he was injured for a long time and somebody else moved in front of him.

"It is very difficult to quantify how good he could have been for Arsenal. He just had the class of an Arsenal player."

Eduardo is part of a squad five points clear of their domestic league rivals, and they have matched Arsenal by winning their first two Group H games. The winners at the Emirates Stadium tonight will be within touching distance of the knockout stages.

Wenger has been boosted by the return of Cesc Fabregas, his captain, following a hamstring problem. "Cesc is available," he confirmed. "He is good and has prepared well. He had a little setback, but got over the hurdle and is ready to play at full fitness.

"We know his influence on our team, he is our leader, our passer, he has a good level of assists and a good level of goalscoring. Ideally you want him in the team."

Theo Walcott is also back in the squad following an ankle injury but the news was not good concerning the Dutch forward Robin van Persie, who will be out until the middle of next month with a similar complaint despite the initial diagnosis suggesting he would be back this month.

Wenger's assessment of Van Persie is at odds with the Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk, who earmarked the forward for international duty against Turkey on 17 November.

"I think the Dutch coach has a good sense of humour," Wenger said. "There is no chance. "Van Persie is a few weeks away, I think three weeks, so that means mid-November."

Fabregas's return offers a reminder of the situation at Manchester United, where Wayne Rooney appears unsettled. Fabregas has remained where he was, rather than joining Barcelona. "When they are under contract, of course it is possible to keep players," Wenger suggested.

Wenger also pointed out that consistency wins titles, rather than superstars. He added: "Chelsea won the championship last year, and Rooney was at Manchester United. That didn't stop Chelsea from winning the championship.

"What's important is that you perform well. What we've learnt since the start of the season is that the games we lost, we could've won, and that the team who wins the title will be the most consistent one, because everyone will drop points."

Three key clashes

Seacute;bastien Squillaci v Luiz Adriano

Because of injuries, the Frenchman has become stand-in captain but has made of a couple of costly errors recently. Squillaci will have to show his experience against Luiz Adriano, the quick Brazilian striker who hit an impressive double in Shakhtar's last Champions League game.

Gaël Clichy v Douglas Costa

The attack-minded Clichy may be forced to defend more against the exciting and much-in-demand Brazilian winger. The skilful left-footer, dubbed the "new Ronaldinho", will look to provide inspiration cutting in from the right. Such is his importance to the side the 20-year-old is set to be rushed back for tonight's game after missing the past fortnight with a thigh injury.

Marouane Chamakh v Dmytro Chygrynskiy

The focal point of the Gunners' attack - the towering Moroccan has slotted in effortlessly since moving to the Emirates on a free from Bordeaux over the summer, leading the line in Robin van Persie's absence. But he will face a difficult test against the tough centre-back Chygrynskiy, who is rediscovering his form after a demoralising year at Barcelona.

Kick-off: 7.45pm, Emirates Stadium. TV: Sky Sports 2 Ref: S O Moen (Nor)

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears