Arsene Wenger Says English Players are “Masters of Diving” Ahead of Spurs Clash

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Today saw Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger playing some mind games with his opponent, Tottenham Hotspur, ahead of this weekend’s north London derby. Wenger gave his weekly news conference Thursday, and during the session he capitalized on the current Tottenham-diving narrative that has taken off since Spurs’ 2-2 draw at Liverpool last Sunday.

Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was booked for diving in that epic thriller, while his teammates Harry Kane and Erik Lamela were accused of simulation by Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

Providing perhaps the primary talking point in the play-acting debate is Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, who ignited controversy by saying football requires the ability to “trick your opponent,” while defending Alli.

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“I am convinced that he wanted to say that tricking your opponent is to say that you have to be clever,” Wenger said.

“How far was it an apology for diving? I’m not sure at all. I don’t think he would.”

“In my personal case I don’t encourage them to dive at all. Sometimes you want your players to be intelligent, they have played a little bit with the rules, they make more of it on the penalty case.”

While Wenger made a point of saying that we should not interpret Pochettino’s quotes as making an excuse for flopping, the Frenchman did joke about English players now becoming the “masters of diving.”

“We have to get the diving out of the game,” Wenger continued.

“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now.”

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Of course, during the same press conference in which Wenger kidded about diving, he praised Tottenham striker Harry Kane for all of his virtues. Some might interpret what Wenger said about the English as a dig at Alli and Kane, but the Gunners boss stresses that Kane didn’t do anything that other centre forwards don’t all typically do.

“Every striker will do that. They extend, a little bit, the rules,” Wenger continued.

“Where is it and how far can you go? That is down to the referees and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine. Most of the time, when a player is going to the goalkeeper, they push the ball away from goal.

“I think they had a good rule in England when I arrived here. When the striker pushes the ball away from the goal, they didn’t give penalties because the only resource the striker has after is to look for a penalty.”

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“In many cases it’s like that now, the guy goes and if the goalkeeper has their hands off, the striker leaves a leg as long as he can to make sure that the goalkeeper touches him. But that’s not really a penalty.”

Arsenal head to Wembley Stadium on Saturday one place in the table and four points behind their north London rivals.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

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