Wenger's latest rant stokes fire
ARSENE WENGER launched a staunch defence of his Arsenal players yesterday in the face of continuing criticism that they cannot stomach the more physical side of football life.
The Gunners manager also called for more protection for his players, even describing the treatment of Cesc Fabregas in the two games against Bolton Wanderers in the past week as "malicious."
Wenger's anger stems from what he views as double standards. If an Arsenal player is involved in a controversial incident, as William Gallas was against Bolton on Wednesday, he is condemned. Yet if Arsenal are on the receiving end from opposing teams, Wenger believes, it is still they who are criticised for not being able to cope with the challenge, however robust that might be.
"When we get kicked everywhere, it doesn't shock everybody, but when we have one incident, it makes a massive story," Wenger said. "When people say before a game they will kick you, that shows the intent.
"People say, 'You didn't fancy that,' but I believe the most important thing is that players like Fabregas are protected. You do not come to watch players who kick him; you come to watch players who play like him, who play football."
All of which should stir the pot nicely for when Arsenal play Stoke City in their FA Cup fourth-round tie at the Britannia Stadium tomorrow.
Wenger and Stoke manager Tony Pulis have significant 'history'.
Wenger complained of Stoke's "cowardice" after Arsenal's 2-1 defeat at the Britannia last season, while last month Pulis accused Wenger of "moaning like a drain" over various issues.
Stoke City v Arsenal, live, tomorrow,
Setanta Ireland & ITV 1, 1.30