Wenger's tough talk on tackling backfires

Arsenal 2 Birmingham City 1: Manager's call for action results in Wilshere seeing red as Arsenal ride luck.

Arsène Wenger may be more careful about what he wishes for in future. After using his programme notes for yesterday's match to call for strong action by referees on dangerous tackles, he saw Jack Wilshere, the man of the match, sent off in injury time for exactly the type of challenge that he had identified.

With Arsenal nervously holding on to a 2-1 lead, Wilshere dived in recklessly from behind on Nikola Zigic, the Birmingham City forward, catching the Serb's ankle and being shown a straight red card by Martin Atkinson, the referee.

"We must fight to keep beautiful tackling, and that's tackling with the desire to get the ball back, rather than jumping in at any cost, " Wenger had written. But he had also added that "Managers... are all responsible for the behaviour of our teams," and, to his credit, he did not display his occasional myopia where his players' shortcomings are concerned afterwards, even if he defended Wilshere as far as he could.

"He mistimed his tackle and got a red card he deserved," Wenger said. "It was his first tackle in the game. He didn't spend his whole game kicking people, he was one of the best players on the pitch. It was more frustration. We do not complain about this tackle, but you cannot say that he had a dirty game."

This fixture, of course, is remembered by both sides for the leg and ankle injuries suffered by Eduardo da Silva in a challenge by Martin Taylor of Birmingham at St Andrew's in February 2008. "We've had to put up with the Eduardo stuff every time we play Arsenal," Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, said. "Martin Taylor is not a dirty player, but it was a mistimed tackle and it caused terrible damage to Eduardo. That tackle could have caused Zigic a lot of damage. We know that Wilshere is not a dirty player, but it shows that players can mistime tackles."

In fact, Emmanuel Eboué could also have been shown a red card, rather than yellow, for a two-footedchallenge on Liam Ridgewell of a type also described in Wenger's notes. As it is, only Wilshere will serve an automatic three-match ban after a match that Arsenal had to come from behind to win, Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh scoring either side of the interval after Zigic had put the visitors ahead.

Arsenal were far from their best but three points – which took them into second place in the Premier League table – were all that matteredfollowing a home defeat by West Bromwich Albion and a 2-0 reverse away to Chelsea. "It was imperative," Wenger said. "Our fluency was affected by the fact that we hadn't won for two games and it was never comfortable today."

Arsenal, though, began strongly, Abou Diaby leading the way in an attacking midfield role. Eboué's unintentional backheader from Sebastian Larsson's free-kick was the only effort to trouble Lukasz Fabianski until the 33rd minute, when the 6ft 8in Zigic outjumped Johan Djourou to head in Keith Fahey's cross.

Arsenal, though, equalised in controversial fashion four minutesbefore the break. Scott Dann ended a run by Wilshere with a well-timed tackle, but as he went to clear the loose ball, Chamakh nipped in and Dann's foot made contact with the Arsenal forward instead. Chamakh's theatrical fall angered the Birmingham defenders, but a penalty was the decision, and Nasri converted.

"It looked like a penalty, but when I saw the players' reaction I thought there was more to it," McLeish said. "People are going to dive and if that's the case it's difficult for referees."

Barely two minutes into the second half, Arsenal were ahead, and luck was on their side again. Chamakh ran on to Wilshere's clever flicked pass but turned his back as Stephen Carr challenged, only to find the ball at his feet after all, and reacted quickly to round Ben Foster and score.

Arsenal could have scored more, but fell into a familiar pattern of over-elaboration. A better final ball on a number of occasions might have settled the nerves which resulted in Wilshere's aberration.

Bookings: Arsenal: Eboué, Nasri. Birmingham: Carr, Bowyer.

Sending-off: Arsenal: Wilshere

Attendance: 60,070

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the match: Wilshere

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'