Arsene Wenger: English 'might even be masters' of diving ahead of Spurs clash
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has said English players "might even be masters" of diving ahead of Saturday's North London derby against arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
Spurs were embroiled in controversy last weekend, with Dele Alli booked for simulation in a dramatic 2-2 draw at Anfield and Harry Kane and Erik Lamela accused of diving to win penalties.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino defended Alli by saying football is about trying to "trick your opponent," but speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Wenger said: "We have to get the diving out of the game.
"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."
But Wenger stressed that it was important not to interpret Pochettino's remark as excusing diving.
"I am convinced that he wanted to say that tricking your opponent is to say that you have to be clever," he said.
"How far was it an apology for diving? I'm not sure at all. I don't think he would.
"In my personal case I don't encourage them to dive at all. 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.
"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 and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine.
"Most of the time, when a player is going to the goalkeeper, they push the ball away from goal.
"I think they had a good rule in England when I arrived here. When the striker pushes the ball away from the goal, they didn't give penalties because the only resource the striker has after is to look for a penalty.
"In many cases it's like that now, the guy goes and if the goalkeeper has their hands off, the striker leaves a leg as long as he can to make sure that the goalkeeper touches him. But that's not really a penalty."
Arsenal are four points behind fifth-placed Tottenham going into the derby and could give their top-four hopes a major boost with a win.
Wenger said playing at Wembley instead of White Hart Lane might help his side, adding: "We have a positive history there and of course Wembley is a pitch that is quality, a stadium with a big crowd and it is always a special day in your mind."
Arsenal, who have won their last nine matches at Wembley, are looking for an upturn in away form after defeats at Swansea and Bournemouth last month.
Wenger called on his players to "find a balance between being rational and emotional" and added: "It's always a game that is a bit more emotionally charged because of the importance it has for us, the fans and everyone around the club.
"As much as you have to certainly be emotionally charged because of the importance of the game, once you're on the pitch you have to be calm, focused and make good decisions.
"That's why you can't let the emotions take over."
Goalkeeper Petr Cech's fitness status is still uncertain after he picked up a calf injury against Everton, while this will be a first North London derby for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.