Walcott likely out for season; Wenger blames diving on foreign players

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted that winger Theo Walcott will likely miss the rest of the season now as he suffered an injured hamstring in the 0-0 draw at the Emirates against Chelsea. Walcott, who has only missed one league match all season, pulled, or tore, his hamstring a third of the way through the second half, but stayed on the pitch for several more minutes.

However, that was an obvious mistake because it got worse and he was taken off and replaced by Gervinho in the 60th minute. Hamstring injuries are notorious for plaguing certain players throughout their careers, for example Michael Owen, and it’s advisable that anybody who feels pain in one of them should immediately stop playing as they usually get worse nine times out of 10.

Wenger said Walcott will likely be out at least three weeks and he’d be surprised if he makes it back before the season runs out, but feels he should be ready for Euro 2012 if he’s selected. After the game, Wenger said it looked to be pretty serious and in hindsight Walcott should have came off the first time he felt it go.

While Walcott, Jack Wilshere, and Mikel Arteta probably won’t be seen on a football pitch again this season, Arsenal can breathe a little easier knowing Spurs were beaten 1-0 at Loftus Road by QPR. However, Newcastle’s 3-0 win over Stoke leaves them just three points behind the Gunners in the race for third spot and also with a game in hand.

With Spurs being six back and Chelsea seven behind, it’s going to be tough for those London neighbours to catch up, even with a game in hand for each of them. Newcastle poses a different problem though, as third place could be a real dog fight now. Of course, third place will guarantee a Champions League spot for next season while fourth place might not if Chelsea wins the tournament this season. We’ll find more out about that scenario on Tuesday when they travel to Barcelona.

While I agree with Wenger’s assessment of Walcott, and that he should have been taken off, it was up to him or one of the physios to make sure he was taken out of the game, not left in it to allow the injury to worsen. I don’t see eye to eye with a lot of things Wenger says or does, but one thing that caught my eye earlier in the week was an article in which Wenger blamed foreign players for introducing the fine art of diving into the English game over the past couple of decades.

Wenger feels there should be stricter punishment for divers, and he’s right. But while some dives are blatantly obvious, there are many occasions on a football pitch where a player goes down in the penalty box and it’s neither worthy of a penalty nor a yellow card for diving. It’s a judgement call and, as we’ve seen all year long, these types of calls are often proved to be wrong.

Wenger said English players are starting to imitate some of the overseas players though, and they’re fast learners when it comes to theatrically diving to the ground. He pointed out an incident that took place in March when Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was given a penalty against the Gunners. Dirk Kuyt missed the spot kick, but Wenger was adamant that Suarez dove and criticized him heavily for it.

It looks like Ashley Young of Manchester United has been taking notes, since it appeared he took a dive two games running that resulted in penalties recently. One was at QPR, and the other at home against Aston Villa. Even Sir Alex Ferguson said they were soft penalties. Wenger said foreign players have also brought a lot of good things with them, but in the old days, English footballers didn’t go down and stay down unless they had a very good reason to.

The manager said he also admired English football because players didn’t surround match officials when they disagreed with a call or to try and get an opponent carded. However, he said that aspect of the game has also disappeared and worsened over the years. He said when he first started managing in the EPL back in 1996, that you rarely saw players surround a referee.

Wenger should know a little about foreign players since he’s brought so many good ones over since arriving in London. We’ve been treated to the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. And while he feels the league is better for the influx of overseas players, Wenger said it’s time to get tough with divers, and that they should be punished retrospectively if it can be proved that they cheated.

He said he’d like to see all divers receive automatic three-match suspensions, but said there would have to be no doubt about the player’s actions before suspending him. He said for instance, he wasn’t sure if Young dove in the game against QPR so in a case like that, the player would have to be given the benefit of doubt.

He said Young might have lost his balance and perhaps embellished it a little to get a penalty, but it wasn’t an obvious dive. He reiterated that the three-game ban would have to be for obvious dives and if this punishment was handed out frequently, then diving would be eradicated from the EPL quite quickly. Well said, Arsene. I couldn’t agree with you more on this issue.

 


From Peterborough, just about 60 minutes from Arsenal's ground. I remember going to Highbury when growing up and after my Uncle's stepson Mark Heeley joined the Gunners from Peterborough when he was just 17 back in the 1970s. Currently cover sports (mainly football, boxing, and ice hockey) for various sites and magazines. Still see most of the games when in Canada. In fact, they get more EPL matches there than in Britain.