I have always had tremendous admiration for Arsene Wenger. His deep passion for the game is matched by Gallic intellect, humanity, wit, genuine commitment to youth development and a concern for truly artistic football. But as he admitted in a recent interview, one of his weaknesses is that he sometimes allows a commendable loyalty to his players to overcome professional judgments about fair play. Consider UEFA’s decision to take action over Croatian international Eduardo’s exceptionally dubious penalty claim for Arsenal against Celtic (what to all intents and purposes looked like a dive) in the Champions League qualifier earlier this week.
Wenger says this decision “disgraceful” and “a witch-hunt”. That is nonsense. As the experiment in Scotland has shown, the only way to tackle cheating is to allow retrospective action over blatant examples. Either that, or to introduce the technology that makes better decisions possible. The Gunners’ manager says he fears that UEFA’s intervention compromises the long-held ethic that “the referee’s decision is final.” Well, the goal his team gained through Eduardo still stands, whatever the outcome of the decision about a match ban. And along with other English Premier League managers. Wenger has frequently questioned and criticised referees in a way which suggests that, when the circumstances suit, he views their decisions as decidedly less than sacrosanct. You cannot have it both ways.