Wenger says abusive fans should face trial by video

Click to follow

Arsne Wenger has upped the ante in the growing debate over the verbal abuse of players and managers by supporters by saying errant fans should be filmed and their families forced to view the results.

It would be a novel if not wholly practical solution to the problem but such is Wenger's undoubted frustration over the subject, born of having suffered himself over the years, that the Arsenal manager feels action of some sort should be taken.

"Most of it is abusive but why do people get away with it?" Wenger said. "Because they are in the mass of people. Sometimes the best [thing to do] is to film them and show the DVD to their family at home. That is the way to deal with it."

Wenger is not saying that either players or managers should be immune from criticism, but he believes a line should be drawn on what is acceptable.

"They are entitled to an opinion," he said of supporters. "They can say to the manager, 'You are useless', but you cannot say, 'You are a fucking bastard'."

It is highly unusual to hear Wenger swear but to do so demonstrates his anger. "I personally, I think I have a long and heavy experience of it," he said, in reference to the abuse he has suffered since his arrival in English football 11 years ago. There have been nasty terrace chants and taunts based on totally unfounded personal allegations which continue to this day.

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, complained over abuse he suffered at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season, prompting Wenger to say that he could detail a long history of such behaviour at Old Trafford. More recently, Portsmouth's Harry Redknapp reacted angrily at Villa Park and Sol Campbell called the BBC last week to ask to be interviewed about the issue after again suffering the attentions of supporters of his former club, Tottenham Hotspur.

"Sol has a big point," Wenger said of the man he signed from Spurs. "Why should we not be respected just because we are on the pitch? I agree completely with him."

The pair will meet later today when Wenger takes Arsenal to Fratton Park as they try to maintain their slender lead at the top of the Premier League. In fact, by the time they kick off this evening they could be trailing Manchester United, who face Sunderland, and Roy Keane, earlier in the day. Keane also weighed into the debate over the abuse of players last week.

Today's match appears to be one of the trickier fixtures for Arsenal to negotiate. They have drawn three of their last four league visits to Portsmouth, although there was a memorable hat-trick at Fratton Park for Thierry Henry four years ago in the FA Cup. He has now gone, of course, and Wenger said he is unlikely to risk Robin van Persie today, as the Dutch striker is still recovering from a slight muscle strain.

Wenger's resources are wearing a little thin and his team were fortunate to gain three points against Spurs on Saturday. But, with the African Nations Cup looming, which will deprive him of Kolo Tour and Emmanuel Ebou, Wenger said he did not expect to sign another central defender in the January transfer window. He could also lose Alex Song if the Cameroonian is called up, so Johan Djourou has been recalled from Birmingham City.

"We could be left short," Wenger said. "Even with Johan we would then be left with just three specialist centre-backs. If I signed another one we'd have too many after the African Cup of Nations. Sometimes you just have to suffer during the tournament and let your players play."

Wenger, who must resist attempts by Lassana Diarra to leave he is attracting interest from Spurs may play Gilberto Silva as a make-shift centre-half.

One position vexing Wenger less than of late is goalkeeper. Manuel Almunia is in form and Lukasz Fabianski is promising. Jens Lehmann has talked about leaving but knows he will play in cup matches which could maintain his status as Germany's Euro 2008 No 1.

Almunia plays opposite an England goalkeeper, David James, today. The Spaniard may yet become one himself as he is less than 12 months away from being able to apply for British citizenship.

Wenger is championing his case. "I could only advise you to take advantage of it and call him up," he said.

The 30-year-old is aware of the issue too.

"I have to be living here one more year and after that year I will study my situation," he said. "Spain have never, never called me. And, if other people want me, I have to study my situation and take a decision because it is good for me, I will not close [the door] to anything. I would be very pleased to take a decision that would make me happy and my family happy."