Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes football can still learn a thing or two from the team ethics of rugby union.
The veteran French coach spent some time with Les Blues Rugby World Cup squad at a dinner function earlier this week, before Philippe Saint-Andre’s men took in training at the Premier League club’s Hertfordshire base yesterday.
Wenger feels the “true solidarity” of the oval ball game brings a unique approach that football could do well to heed.
“If you want to play, you have first to be together if you want to play.
“That is a quality. I love team sport and maybe nowhere better than in rugby,” said Wenger.
“A team has first to be a team before they go out there, and I think as well in the modern world it is something very interesting that you still maintain that.” Wenger, who hopes to catch a live France match later in the tournament if Arsenal’s schedule allows, believes football’s reputation for being soft on the field compared to rugby players is unfounded.
“There are things in every sport that we can learn from them, but football has a reputation for softness that is not true,” he said.
“They are hit hard in rugby and you are frightened sometimes, but in football it is very painful to be kicked in the ankle. There are a lot of kicks that hurt.
“It is not that they are soft, it is different pains.” Arsenal today travel to a Leicester side who have impressed after making an unbeaten start under new manager Claudio Ranieri.
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Wenger feels the Italian does not perhaps get the credit he deserves for his achievements at Chelsea, having spent four years at the Stamford Bridge helm before being replaced by Jose Mourinho in 2004.
“I don’t see him as a tinkerman. Look at the team of Chelsea when he left: They all survived after and they all stayed after as well. They were on the way up when he left,” said Wenger.
“Yes, he built the foundations. He did a great job. He bought (Frank) Lampard, they had (John) Terry, (Marcel) Desailly, (William) Gallas. They had already a very strong team.” Wenger continued: “Everybody rotates now because of the intensity of the games is very high. It is difficult to repeat exactly the same after the intensity of the game we had on Wednesday night (in the Capital One Cup at Tottenham), for example.
“I never saw him so much that he changed so much his teams, somebody finds a name and everyone thinks he is only that.
“He is a very respectful and competent guy.
“Look when he started in football and he is still in it today. If he is not competent it would be surprising for him to survive for such a long time at the top level.”
Wenger will have to do without Gabriel today after the defender was given a one-match ban by the FA after accepting a charge of improper conduct.
The 24-year-old made headlines last weekend after clashing with Diego Costa and picking up a red card for kicking out at the Chelsea forward in the Gunners’ ill-tempered 2-0 defeat.
The FA announced on Tuesday it had accepted Arsenal’s challenge to referee Mike Dean’s decision and withdrawn the three-match suspension, but the Brazilian defender has not escaped all punishment.
Gabriel has accepted a charge of improper conduct following the fall-out from his clash with Costa and will serve a one-match ban this weekend.
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