Wenger dives into Welbeck case

Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck going down in the box after AC Milan defender Ricardo Rodriguez's soft challenge in the box. The Switzerland international protested his innocence to little avail as the referee blew for a spot-kick, which Welbeck duly c
Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck going down in the box after AC Milan defender Ricardo Rodriguez's soft challenge in the box. The Switzerland international protested his innocence to little avail as the referee blew for a spot-kick, which Welbeck duly converted in the 39th minute for a 3-1 aggregate lead.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

He will give striker 'honest' feedback if he was play-acting as Arsenal draw CSKA in q-finals

LONDON • Arsene Wenger promised he would talk to Danny Welbeck if he felt the Arsenal striker was guilty of diving.

The manager said he did not see the 38th-minute flashpoint that turned Thursday's Europa League tie against AC Milan decisively in his team's favour when Welbeck went down inside the area under minimal contact from Ricardo Rodriguez.

Welbeck scored the penalty to make it 1-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate. Granit Xhaka and Welbeck added second-half goals for a 5-1 aggregate win that earned Arsenal a quarter-final tie against CSKA Moscow.

"I haven't seen it again," said Wenger, who last month suggested that English players may be the "masters" of diving after Tottenham's Dele Alli was booked for simulation against Liverpool.

"Do you want to accuse the English players to be divers? Was it a penalty, I don't know. The Milan players were not happy with it and I can understand that because I don't really know what it was.

"I will watch it again and give you my honest feeling about it. I will give him my honest feeling as well."

Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso refused to criticise the officials. He pointed to the error that his goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made on Xhaka's goal as evidence that anybody could make them - including referees.

  • 15

    Arsenal have 15 different scorers in this season's Europa League - more than any other team.

"Welbeck is a striker, he has to do what he does," Gattuso said. "We cannot use that as a reference for the whole of English football - there is a great deal of fair play here.

"Even when I was a player, I tried to take advantage of individual situations. I don't want to talk about the referee. I don't want any alibi."

Pundits were less forgiving.

"It's a definite dive," former Arsenal defender Martin Keown told BT Sport, while former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas said: "Welbeck doesn't feel any contact apart from his own feet connecting with themselves and he goes over.

"The referee and assistant referee completely buy it."

  • EUROPA LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS

  • RB Leipzig (Ger) v Marseille (Fra)

  • Arsenal (Eng) v CSKA Moscow (Rus)

  • Atletico Madrid (Esp) v Sporting Lisbon (Por)

  • Lazio (Ita) v RB Salzburg (Aut)

  • First leg: April 5

    Second leg: April 12

Following on from Sunday's Premier League victory over Watford, Arsenal's third successive win in all competitions provides a measure of breathing space for Wenger after a miserable run sparked fresh calls for his dismissal.

"Certainly for the climate around the team, it was a vital result," he said. "We had a nightmare week when we lost twice to Manchester City and at Brighton. To recover from that, you need to be solid and mentally strong and show a response together. Many people didn't expect us to respond like we have. It shows the team is healthy."

Looking certain to miss out on a top-four finish in the league, Arsenal - sixth in the table, 12 points behind fourth-placed Liverpool with eight games left - must win the Europa League to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Wenger yesterday got his wish as the Gunners avoided favourites Atletico Madrid, who will face Sporting Lisbon in the quarter-finals.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2018, with the headline 'Wenger dives into Welbeck case'. Print Edition | Subscribe