English players 'masters of diving'
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger weighed into the debate about simulation in the Premier League by suggesting that English players may have become “the masters of diving” ahead of the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
Wenger was speaking as the fallout continued from last weekend’s 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Spurs when Tottenham’s Dele Alli was booked for diving and Harry Kane was accused of going down too easily to win a penalty under a challenge from home ‘keeper Loris Karius.
Earlier this week Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino defended his players by saying part of football is about “tricking the opponent” and, while Wenger believes those comments have been blown out of proportion, he said simulation was an increasing problem.
“We have to get the diving out of the game,” the Frenchman told a news conference yesterday. “I remember there were tremendous 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.”
Alli has been particularly criticized after receiving his third caution for simulation. Wenger did not name the England midfielder but said there is a fine line between what is legal and what is not.
“I don’t encourage my players to dive. But sometimes you want your players to be intelligent, they have played a little bit with the rules, they make more of it on the penalty case,” the Frenchman said.
“Every striker will do that. They extend a little bit the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine.”
Wenger will decide today whether to play Petr Cech or David Ospina in goal as the Czech continues to recover from a calf injury that led to his substitution in last Saturday’s 5-1 win over Everton.
“Cech or Ospina, I will make that decision tomorrow,” said Wenger. “Petr Cech has not practised but I will not take any risk if he is not 100 percent fit.”
Wenger also hopes to have Nacho Monreal and Danny Welbeck available for the game.
It is the first time Wenger has taken Arsenal to play Spurs at Wembley, a ground where the Gunners traditionally thrive, winning the FA Cup final in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
“We feel we have a good level of performance at Wembley. It gives you a good pitch to allow you to play the way you want to,” said Wenger, who will face Spurs for the 52nd time in his 22 years as Arsenal manager.
His side goes into the game in sixth place, four points behind Spurs and five off a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot.
On Wednesday, Spur cruised into the FA Cup fifth round by dispatching fourth-tier Newport County 2-0 in a replay with a largely second-string side.
Tottenham, which had needed a late Harry Kane goal to force a 1-1 draw in the first game, was never troubled at Wembley, progressing thanks to an own-goal from Dan Butler before Erik Lamela doubled the lead.
There was no place in the Tottenham lineup for top scorer Kane, who was missing along with a host of other first-team players, as Spurs boss Pochettino rang the changes with one eye on tomorrow’s league derby against Arsenal.
The hosts were in cruise control after 26 minutes, however, when Moussa Sissoko’s drilled cross deflected cruelly off Butler’s heel and wrong-footed ‘keeper Joe Day on its way into the Newport net. The lead was doubled eight minutes later when Lamela scored his first Tottenham goal since September 2016, the Argentine showing quick feet before slipping his finish through the legs of Day having been played in by Son Heung-min.
Spurs, who missed several chances in the second half with Fernando Llorente, substitute Dele Alli and Lamela all guilty of wasting opportunities, will travel to third-tier Rochdale in the last 16.