Thursday 17 October 2019

Wenger: English players have become diving 'masters'

Arsene Wenger. Photo: PA
Arsene Wenger. Photo: PA

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger has suggested that English players had become the "masters" of diving after Harry Kane and Dele Alli were accused of simulation during Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday.

Specific names were not mentioned yesterday by Wenger but, ahead of tomorrow's North London derby, he was asked directly about Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino's claim that "football is about trying to trick your opponent".

Pochettino also said that English football had become "so sensitive" about what he called "minimal details" after Alli was booked for a third time in his career for diving.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk also accused Kane of "diving clearly", even though the Tottenham striker was adamant that there had been contact for his penalty.

"I am convinced that he (Pochettino) wanted to say that tricking your opponent is to say that you have to be clever," said Wenger.

"How far was it an apology for diving? I'm not sure at all. I don't think he would. In my personal case? No. We have to get the diving out of the game.

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"I remember there were cases here when foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now."

Wenger accused Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling of diving earlier this season but, ahead of such a crucial derby match, his comments are likely to go down badly with Spurs fans. They will also ensure an added spotlight on the decisions tomorrow of referee Anthony Taylor.

Arsenal have themselves faced major "diving" controversies during Wenger's tenure, notably when Robert Pires went down against Portsmouth to help salvage a 1-1 draw in what became the 'Invincible' 2003-4 season.

Pochettino admitted that Alli deserved his yellow card on Sunday but Kane stressed that he "felt contact" and so "went down" following a challenge by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius.

"I'm not going to jump out of the way because it's football," said Kane.

Pochettino claimed that situations like the Alli incident had become over-analysed and again pointed out that Michael Owen had dived when he famously challenged him in the 1998 World Cup for Argentina.

"I am honest always and I gave you what I feel," said Pochettino.

"In 1998, I did not touch Michael Owen and he dived. Today you are so sensitive about details and sometimes it's difficult for me because, when you are honest you try to explain some things, and my language is not English. It's difficult to be right in my words and to use the right words."

Wenger was adamant that he has never told one of his players to dive but he did hint at a grey area when only limited contact has been made.

"I don't encourage them to dive at all," he said. "Sometimes you want your players to be intelligent, they have played a little bit with the rules and they make more of it on the penalty case.

"Every striker will do that. They extend a little bit the rules. Where is it and how far can you go? That is down to the referees."

Wenger also confirmed that goalkeeper Petr Cech is yet to train following the calf injury he sustained against Everton but stressed that he would have complete confidence in starting David Ospina. (©The Daily Telegraph, London)

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