Wenger promises to carry on speaking out about 'violent' tackles

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger said yesterday that he would not back down in his dispute with Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis and promised to continue speaking out over what he described as "violent football".

The Arsenal manager, whose team face West Bromwich Albion tomorrow, has come under heavy criticism for claiming Stoke City played "rugby" instead of football and has been accused by Allardyce, who has a News of the World column, of manipulating the media to get his message across. Stoke City have complained about Wenger directly to the Football Association.

Wenger said that being criticised by other managers was "not new" for him. "Most of the time it was down to the fact I criticised violent football," he said. "I am ready to do that at any price, to come out on that because I don't accept it. Everybody should be on the same wavelength on that, without criticising any manager. When I say 'this is a bad foul', I just say 'this is a bad foul' – I do not consider who it is, where it is or the manager. I just think it is a bad foul. They [Pulis and Allardyce] should not [take it personally] because I do not criticise them."

Wenger rejected Allardyce's accusation that he used "the media" to support his own agenda and influence referees into penalising opposing teams. "I don't do it,"' Wenger said, "I just decide whether it [the tackle] is right or wrong and I came very quickly to the conclusion that it is wrong. I don't think the criticism was right on that.

"'I lived for a long time here and I know how it works. I live with the positives and the negatives, but at the end of the day I look at what I do and try to be objective. I told you I was wrong in our last away game at Sunderland [over his remarks and behaviour towards the fourth official Martin Atkinson] and I accept the punishment."

Wenger served a one-match touchline ban from the FA during his team's 4-1 win over Tottenham in the Carling Cup third round on Tuesday for his behaviour towards Atkinson. He maintained yesterday that the FA should also use video evidence to charge Bolton's Paul Robinson for his tackle on Abou Diaby that injured the player.

"It is the system," Wenger said. "The FA is always very swift with me but I cannot influence it [the system]. I said I was wrong [over Atkinson] and that doesn't make anyone else right or wrong. Robinson's was a bad tackle but the rule is that if the foul has not been seen by the referee, they can do nothing about it.

'That's why I have pleaded for a long time for video – if you want the referee to get bad tackles out of the game, you have to accept that at some stage a review of the video [is required] so the FA can punish the players that do it.'

Arsenal are expected to announce record profits today, having paid off the £133m debt on their Highbury Square development – the luxury apartments built in the stands of their old Highbury stadium. They have cleared the debt six months early thanks to a resurgence in the property market and now have just £225m of debt, which is serviced by £16m annual payments.

Wenger also said that he was considering a new contract for the club's young Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who said yesterday that he was prepared to leave in search of first-team football. On Szczesny, who is out of contract next summer, Wenger said: "When you educate a player like we do with Szczesny, who arrives at the age of 16, it is a long-term investment which costs a lot of money, so you want to keep the players.

"You can only play one goalkeeper, and what they forget when they are 20 is that they can play until they are 40, whereas a normal player can only go to 32 or 34, so what they lose at the start they gain at the end of their career."

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