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Arsenal have questions to address


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Wenger just a sore loser

Arsene Wenger's comments this week have been nothing new. The physical side of the game has always troubled his Arsenal side, and that has not improved since players like Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell have left the club.

The Arsenal boss has long hit out at teams which are prepared to put in a tackle. His most famous verbal assault was, until this week at least, aimed at Blackburn Rovers. After they conceded a late equaliser at Ewood Park in August last year, Wenger claimed Rovers had a "desire for violence more than commitment in their challenges".

Now he's gone one step further, claiming that Stoke City's players' "only intention is to hurt" and highlighted challenges from Rory Delap and Ryan Shawcross which resulted in injuries to Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor respectively.

We've always known Arsenal are sore losers, now Wenger is finding further fault in others rather than himself.

In the post match interviews, Wenger may have admitted Stoke deserved their victory at the Britannia Stadium but, within a couple of days, his true vitriol surfaced with Walcott and Adebayor facing weeks on the treatment table. He has also, months after the event, re-opened the debate over Martin Taylor's challenge which put Eduardo out in February.

To say opposition managers are deliberately sending out their players to cause injury is ill-judged at best and slanderous at worst. It may be that the tactic is to 'get involved', pressurise and limit the time and space Arsenal may have on the ball but to claim there is clear malice suggests a hint of delusion from Wenger.

Of course, few would argue that many teams do alter their style to be more abrasive against the Gunners and there is a simple reason for that: Arsenal cannot handle it. Should lesser opposition attempt to match Arsenal man for man or let them pass the ball with ease? Of course not.

It's a similar argument that claims Stoke should not use their long throw as it's "not football". A team must play to its strengths, especially where there is a perceived battle to survive, rather than bow to the footballing purists.

The fact is Wenger's teams cannot handle the physical side of the game and until that changes they may struggle to win the Premier League again. They may have ended their hoodoo at Ewood Park and Bolton's Reebok Stadium in recent seasons but Stoke produced a return to the kind of football which had seen the Gunners flounder in the north west.

Slick passing and technical football may win you friends but does it win you trophies?

You could not see Manchester United being bullied from one of Stoke's long throws. The power and physical presence of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand would see to that. The same goes for Chelsea with players like John Terry, Alex and Ricardo Carvalho.

The problem is mirrored in the centre of the park where Arsenal remain extremely lightweight. Cesc Fabregas and Denilson are hardly likely to muscle anyone off the ball and Arsenal have never properly replaced Patrick Vieira.

Perhaps if Wenger concentrated on his own squad, creating a team prepared to roll their sleeves up as well as create patterns across the pitch, they may finally end a trophy drought which stretches back to the FA Cup success three and a half years ago.


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