Wenger set to take legal action over Diaby tackle

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The Independent Football

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, is threatening to take legal action against Sunderland's Dan Smith for a tackle on Abou Diaby in Arsenal's 3-0 victory at the Stadium of Light on Monday which left the Arsenal player with a fractured ankle and ruptured ligaments. After surgery on Wednesday, the early indications are that the Paris-born midfielder could miss up to nine months, ruling him out of the Champions' League final against Barcelona on 17 May.

Wenger is livid with what he thought was a deliberate attempt to injure his player and said he would be seeking legal advice to ascertain what steps can be taken to ensure Smith is given a harsher punishment than a yellow card. "I'm very upset and very disappointed with that tackle," Wenger said. "I will not leave it there. I cannot accept it. There was only one intention and that was to hurt the player. It's a career-threatening tackle and I will take legal advice to see how far I can go. I just want justice."

Wenger's anger was directed not just at Smith but at what, he feels, has been a regular tactic this season of foul play to try to prevent Arsenal playing attacking football. "It's a consequence of an idea that you have to kick Arsenal to beat them and I knew that at some stage an accident like this would happen," Wenger said. "I love the physical game, but when you go in like that not once but twice and have people saying 'he tried to go for the ball', I just feel sorry for these people because I don't see what football they love."

Wenger also criticised the referee, Dermot Gallagher, for only booking the player, and the Football Association's disciplinary procedure. "When I see Gallagher booking him for a tackle like that it's just appalling. Gallagher should come out and say 'I've misjudged this tackle', otherwise the FA can do nothing," Wenger said. "You criticise a referee after the game and there is an inquiry, but kill someone's career in a game and there's nothing."

When asked if he thought the FA should ban Smith retrospectively, Wenger replied "of course". However, that is unlikely to happen. The tackle was clearly occupying Wenger's thoughts and overshadowed the anticipated return of Ashley Cole, the England left-back, who will start for Arsenal at Manchester City tonight. "He's getting sharper and getting fitter, but I don't know [about the Champions' League final]," Wenger added.

Cole will replace Gaël Clichy, who is being rested. Sol Campbell, the Arsenal and England centre-back, will also start, which is good news for England.

Wenger has almost a full squad to choose from with Fredrik Ljungberg, Alexander Hleb, Jose Antonio Reyes and Gilberto Silva all expected to return after missing Monday's match. Thierry Henry starts but Emmanuel Adebayor has a sinus infection and Dennis Bergkamp is rested.

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