Arsene Wenger was yesterday accused of duplicity by the Bolton Wanderers' manager Owen Coyle in the aftermath of Bolton's controversial match at the Emirates last Saturday.
Wenger has launched some trenchant criticism of Paul Robinson's tackle on Abou Diaby in the past few days, also addressing the issue in his programme notes for Arsenal's game against Braga, and has declared he is tired of being a loan voice against such challenges. But Coyle, whose good relationship with Wenger saw Bolton take Jack Wilshere on loan last season, said Wenger had provided no hint of his unhappiness at what he now considers to be a red card offence against Diaby when the two managers exchanged text messages on Saturday evening.
"I sent Arsène a text after the game to apologise for missing him as we had to catch a train back north. He sent me back a text saying we were a very good team," Coyle said. "I understand if people say things after games when a player gets injured. We all do that. I have no problem people having things to say. But if I am there, say it to my face.
"Maybe Arsenal know they were in a really tough game and that is a compliment. I could say Kieran Gibbs should have been booked and then sent off for going into the back of Kevin Davies. I like to think we have endeavour, commitment and quality. Nobody is complaining about how Jack Wilshere is tackling since he has been here."
Coyle recalled William Gallas's dire tackle on Bolton's Mark Davies back in January, which Coyle likened to an "assault" at the time and saw Davies carried off the Emirates pitch – though no ligament damage occurred as was feared. "If we want to harp back look at [that] tackle [which] speaks for itself," Coyle said. "I think pot and kettle are the words that come to mind."
Sam Allardyce, never one to miss out when Wenger is under attack, suggested yesterday that the Frenchman had manipulated the media to his own ends.
Allardyce, who joined with Sir Alex Ferguson in criticism of Wenger last month, claimed: "Arsène has most of the media in his pocket now and is almost – almost – affecting the officials so that you can't tackle an Arsenal player," he said. "That's something he's very clever at working on and it's almost working in his favour, you can see that. Read his interview before the Stoke City v Aston Villa match, what he said and how he said it – he's a very, very clever man in terms of influencing referees, officials and everybody in football. He can't be brought up for it because it's about another match – rather than just before he plays us.
"There is a perception that we kick everybody and Arsenal's motivation is that you can't tackle us as you aren't supposed to. In terms of saying people are trying to injure players he's trying to influence, through the media, the referees and that's something they shouldn't get sucked in to."
Allardyce insisted that although football remained a contact sport, the days of players trying to injure opponents was long gone.
"You get two players running at the speeds they run at now means the collision side has increased dramatically," said Allardyce. "When they come together and collide the force of that is going to create something that looks a lot worse, then we slow it all down and that makes it look worse. Then we get this thing about it's a dirty game. It's never been cleaner than it is now."