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Wenger wrong in North London derby debate

27 Apr 2006(Thu)

Tokyo, April 26, 2006 -- Congratulations to Arsene Wenger for steering Arsenal into the UEFA Champions League final.

Wenger, of course, is still remembered with affection in Japan, especially in Nagoya, and is, quite rightly, a JFA target for the job of national coach.

Wenger has told me on a couple of occasions that he would like the job -- but not yet. He says it's a part-time job, more suitable for semi-retirement, and he is not ready to leave club football just yet.

And who can blame him, with Arsenal about to appear in their first Champions League final and set to move into a magnificent new stadium just a goalkeeper's kick away from the historic -- but small -- Highbury. He's also been linked with the Real Madrid job, and, according to one of his close friends working in Japan (all right -- it's Stuart Baxter!), could even go at the end of this season.

So Japan will have to wait a while longer for Wenger's expertise. Maybe the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is a more realistic target for the JFA.

While admiring Wenger, I am afraid I cannot take his side in a controversial incident that happened during the North London derby against Spurs at Highbury on Saturday afternoon, shown live on Saturday evening in Japan.

Very briefly, two Arsenal players collided while challenging a Spurs player. It must be pointed out that the two players, Eboue and Gilberto, bumped into each other and stayed on the turf, but clearly were not injured seriously, like in a clash of heads.

Spurs played on and scored. Wenger was furious, thinking Spurs should have kicked the ball out of play to allow his players to be treated.

Personally, I think Spurs had every right to play on, and Wenger was wrong to criticise his opposite number, Martin Jol.

It's not as if there had been a heavy collision between two rival players, and one of them had been injured. That's totally different.

But anyway I feel there is too much these days of teams kicking the ball out of play to allow a player, who may or may not be injured, to receive treatment.

You see it a lot...a team is leading, a player drops to the turf to waste time, his goalkeeper or team-mate stops the game by kicking the ball out of play, the medical staff come on and, lo and behold, he's not hurt at all. It's just another form of time-wasting and gamesmanship that has crept into the modern game.

It's the referee's job to stop the game, not the players' job, and I think refs in Japan should be much tougher. They should keep the game flowing and tell the "injured" player to get up, or show a yellow card to a player who deliberately kicks the ball out of play to stop the match without the ref's permission.

Even then, I think some teams are way too generous in kicking the ball back to the opposition on the restart, as they are losing and their opponents who have delayed the game are all now back in formation.

Who'd be a ref these days?


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