Wenger refutes Arsenal are a 'dirty' team

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal are not a "dirty" team - and there is no sense of "paranoia" at Emirates Stadium.

Jack Wilshere's red card for a studs-up challenge on Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic at the end of Saturday's Barclays Premier League game grabbed the headlines - many of which had more than a sense of Schadenfreude at the expense of the Arsenal manager who has long championed the need to clamp down on over-the-top tackles.

Wenger had used his pre-match programme notes to issue another rally call against the hatchet men, only to then find himself on the backfoot after Arsenal collected their third red card of the season - the most of any team in the top flight.

The Gunners boss, though, was in defiant mood when he again addressed the thorny issue at today's media conference ahead of the Champions League clash against Shakhtar Donetsk.

"I am still calling for it, I defend football. Whether my players are involved or not doesn't matter," Wenger declared.

"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 is true occasionally we go overboard, but that does not mean in the longer term our record is not fantastic. That is what you have to look at."

Wenger continued: "The problem in the modern game is one incident makes a lifelong story. It is not like that.

"You have to look and take a distance with our record and the way we want to play football.

"You will not find many people in Europe who will tell you Arsenal is a dirty team."

Speaking after Saturday's 2-1 win, which halted a run of successive Premier League defeats, Wenger accepts some people will always claim Arsenal are "wrong" - no matter how he tries to approach the game.

However, the Gunners boss insisted that was very much part and parcel of life at a top side.

"I have no paranoia feelings at all," Wenger insisted.

"I think to live in a big club you are more highlighted than other clubs and you have to live with that.

"As well you have to take a big enough distance to feel if it is true or not."

Wenger added: "We are here to make sure football is played in the right way.

"I don't say we're untouchable and that we don't make mistakes, because we make them as well.

"But overall I believe we commit very few fouls in the game and we try to play in a fair way.

"When we make a mistake, we come out and say sorry and we won't do it again."

Wilshere immediately apologised for his "mistimed" challenge and insists he will learn from the situation as he serves a three-match domestic ban.

The 18-year-old is, though, likely to be involved in tomorrow night's European tie.

"Jack made a mistake, but he came out and said 'I am sorry, I apologise and I deserve my red card'. You cannot ask for much more," Wenger said.

"The fortunate situation is that the player he tackled was not badly injured. For the rest, I believe he will handle it well."

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