Arsene Wenger has hit out at players who overreact to challenges but admitted that his own team are as capable of hamming it up as any other.
Clearly the issue is fresh for the Arsenal boss, having just played against Liverpool and Sp*rs, conceding penalties to dives in both games. Gareth Bale is the only player to have been booked more than once this season for diving, while Luis Suarez is the archetypal diver – not only does he go down under minimal, and sometimes no, contact, he then rolls around on the floor as if his leg has been snapped in two.
As Arsenal fans we sadly know that if a player’s leg is snapped in two he rarely does any kind of rolling around at all, and this kind of reaction to a tackle is, essentially, acting. Yes, football is entertainment as well as sport, but aside from the odd penalty and a card for an opponent, there are no prizes given out for these acts of callow thespianism.
“It annoys me when that sort of thing happens but I know it can also happen with one of my players,” said Wenger.
“For example, Suarez got a penalty against us at Anfield last week that was no penalty because nobody touched him.
“Everyone who has played football can understand that players try to win a penalty when they push the ball too far and go down although nobody has touched them.
“But when they roll down their sock, take out the shinpad and react as though they have been kicked like mad, that is a bit overboard.
“When you face that situation with one of your own players, you talk to them. But they already know.”
The issue is in focus again as Arsenal face Newcastle tonight. On the opening day of the season new signing Gervinho was sent off after tickling Joey Barton’s face. The self-styled hard man fell to the floor as if he’d been poleaxed by Oscar (eh?! eh?!) de la Hoya, and Wenger says the Ivorian won’t make the same mistake again.
At Newcastle, he had a bad response to provocation from Barton,” he said.
“He was shocked because he felt he didn’t do a lot. But I think he learned his lesson in the first game.”
We can but hope, but until football takes a zero tolerance approach to cheats like Bale and Suarez, and uses video footage to retrospectively charge and punish these kinds of incidents, then sadly nothing much is going to change.
As much as we criticise referees, it’s often only with the benefit of replays that the cheating becomes apparent, and not to use this technology in a positive way is down to that big, fat, corrupt Luddite in charge of FIFA. A ref’s job is tough enough, they have to make decisions in split seconds, and when you read idiots like Bale actually admitting to diving then surely they need all the help they can get.
You can be quite sure that once a few players get banned for ‘simulation’, as they so kindly put it, others will think twice before they go to ground so quickly.
But we won’t hold our breath over its implementation.