Date:Wednesday May 3 2006
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has threatened legal action against Sunderland full back Dan Smith after his challenge caused serious injury to young Arsenal star Abou Diaby.
The Gunners boss today revealed that the club were mulling over the possibility of suing Smith for the over-zealous challenge that caused Diaby's dislocation and fracture of the ankle.
'An accident can happen,' Wenger said today. 'We all accept that. If two players go for the ball with the right spirit, then ok. What happened there was just not acceptable. The referee and the press cannot accept that.'
And he feels that Smith should be banned for the same length of time Diaby is on the sidelines injured.
'I felt, having watched the game, that there were bad intentions there and I will take legal advice to take this game further.
'The player should be banned as long as Abou Diaby does not play. When you see that he gets a yellow card it is just horrendous.'
Kevin Ball defended Smith, saying he was 'not a malicious, dirty player' and that 'Dan went for the ball, unfortunately Diaby was quicker than him.'
The hypocrisy of professional football again rears its head here. Arsenal have never been a soft side and, while they might play prettier football than Sunderland, they certainly aren't scared to put the boot in.
Of course all wish the talented Diaby to make a speedy recovery and it is a crying shame his injury means that he will not be able to play any part in the European Cup final, when most in this country will be cheering on the Gunners over Barcelona.
But for Wenger to suggest that Smith's challenge was a deliberate effort to hurt the player is both inaccurate and an insult to the Sunderland players and fans. Ironically, it is verging on libellous. Poor, reckless and mis-timed yes, deliberate, certainly not.
What makes Wenger's comments even more galling is that Arsenal, under his leadership, have been involved in several unsporting incidents over the years. This is the team whose ill-disciplined players have been involved in several shocking on-field fracas and attempts at group bullying of referees and opposition players.
Shocking tackle that it was, Smith intended to get the ball and it was indeed a tackle. Unlike a certain Mr Bergkamp's unsubtle stamp on Sunderland's Paul Bracewell at Roker Park 1996. Or Vieria's spitting incident with Neil Ruddock not so long ago either.
And with Jens Lehman in goal you can rest assured that Wenger's side will never be the paragons of fair play he seems to believe they are.
But hey, donít let that stop the European finalists get all high and mighty on us mere relegation fodder. After all, Wenger, Henry and Toure haven't even bothered to learn the name of the player who inflicted Diaby's injury. That might be a problem when it comes to pointing the finger in court Arsene.
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