Wenger bridles at suggestions from pundits — including George Graham, the former Arsenal manager — that his side are too soft, but is determined not to rise to the bait. He prefers to deal with facts rather than stereotypes and is more concerned by weak referees than dirty opponents, with the exception of those who make their foul intentions apparent beforehand.
“It annoys me, but I can understand it,” Wenger said. “If you play football, do you like to be kicked? Nobody likes to be kicked. If somebody comes out before the game and says we have to kick them, for me they should not play the game.
“We’ve had three players this year who’ve had surgery as a result of tackles, Robin van Persie, Kieran Gibbs and now Ramsey. We’re the only club in Europe who’ve had three players requiring surgery.
“Before the accident with Gibbs [during the Champions League group game at the Emirates Stadium in November] I stood up to the referee five times in the last 15 minutes and said, ‘Calm this man [Eliaquim] Mangala down because he will kill one of our players.’ It was so obvious. Standard Liège had lost the game and he was just looking to kick people. What happened? He broke the metatarsal of Kieran Gibbs. It could have been avoided.”