Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho this week spoke out over what he saw as a “clear campaign” against the Premier League leaders after midfielder Cesc Fabregas was cautioned by referee Anthony Taylor for simulation in the match at Southampton, when the player looked to have in fact been tripped by defender Matt Targett in the penalty area.
It is not the first time this season the Blues have found themselves at the centre of a diving storm.
Forwards Diego Costa and Willian were both booked for supposedly taking a tumble in the win over Hull, after which Tigers boss Steve Bruce compared a Gary Cahill dive as “like something out of Swan Lake”, while on St Stephen’s Day, the West Ham manager Sam Allardyce accused Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic of going down “looking for a penalty”.
Wenger — who had a touchline bust-up with Mourinho during Arsenal’s defeat at Stamford Bridge in October — quipped he “very much” felt sorry for the supposed campaign against Chelsea players.
However, the French coach agrees something must be done to eradicate the trend of those looking to win an unfair advantage.
“I am against diving. We should punish after the game. The problem will be to decide when it was obvious diving or not. That is a big issue and sometimes it is not obvious,” said the Arsenal boss, who takes his side to Southampton tomorrow looking to move back up into the top four.
“Yes (there should be a panel), and the most suited to this are people who have an experience in the game, and (then) to punish only obvious cases, but not mixed ones.
“Naming (those guilty) alone doesn’t work, you have to suspend the players. How long should the ban be? I don’t know. It depends.
“I am not a specialist in this kind of thing, but the only way that the players will stop doing it, is if they feel they can get punished.
“Is it Arsenal, or Manchester United, or Liverpool or Chelsea? It is for everybody the same.”
Wenger accepts determining the intent of players would prove most testing.
Asked if sometimes players could be “too honest”, Wenger added: “You mean not clever? You have to choose between being clever and being honest, and that is a bad solution.
“What you want is for a player to play with honesty, and to go for it.
“Once the players start to dive or not to dive, it makes it difficult for the referee.”
Arsenal, of course, are not immune to accusations of simulation.
Robert Pires infamously took a tumble at Portsmouth which resulted in a controversial penalty during the Gunners’ Invincibles campaign of 2003/04, while striker Eduardo was initially banned by Uefa for diving when winning a spot-kick in the Champions League qualifier against Celtic during August 2009, which was eventually overturned on appeal.
Wenger accepts sometimes such instincts are just part of a footballer’s make-up.
He said: “It is difficult for me to judge what’s happening anywhere else on that front, but you can never really meet a manager who says he is in favour of diving anyway.
“We had them, with Pires, with Eduardo. It is down to the players.
“(But) even if you talk to the players, the guys who have that in them, they will do it in the game. It is just coincidence.
“(Alexis) Sanchez is the kind of player who will always go on (and stay up), because he thinks he can win the ball back again, so it is a bit more down to the character of the players.”
Wenger, meanwhile, labelled Inter Milan’s interest in forward Lukas Podolski as a “joke” and hopes the German forward stays at the Barclays Premier League club. Inter boss Roberto Mancini confirmed to Italian news channel Sport Mediaset that the 29-year-old is “part of a list of players that we are following”, with Podolski unhappy at a lack of first-team opportunities for the Gunners this season.
Wenger, however, knocked down those reports, which have suggested a loan deal, as he looks to strengthen the squad, not weaken it when the transfer window opens again in January.
“That is a joke. Inter Milan is not serious,” said Wenger. It is nothing serious. They talk, there is only talk.”
Wenger is keen for Podolski to remain part of a squad, which has seen attacking options hit by a three-match suspension to Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck having picked up a thigh problem during the win at West Ham on December 28.
“Podolski is a player of Arsenal Football Club and I want him to stay.”
Welbeck is a doubt for the Southampton game with a thigh problem while the trip to St Mary’s comes too soon for Aaron Ramsey to return.