Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger adopted a familiar theme after Wednesday's 0-0 Champions League draw with Fenerbahce when he claimed that his team is victimized by referees. With defender Mikael Silvestre joining Emmanuel Adebayor, Theo Walcott, Eduardo da Silva and Tomas Rosicky on the sidelines with what looked to be a broken nose, Wenger again lamented what he claims is the deliberate targeting of his players and a lack of punishment for it.
"Sometimes in England, you hear, 'They don't fancy that," Wenger said. "Of course we don't fancy that, because that's not football."
Although Wenger, who has made such comments regularly during his 12 years with the club, did not suggest that Semih Senturk's 83rd-minute elbow on Silvestre was deliberate, he appeared to be smarting still from Saturday's 2-1 Premier League defeat at Stoke. In what is perhaps a legitimate attempt to protect his young players from criticism or maybe even prompt leniency in future matches, Wenger said that referees were more ready to punish his players for fouls than they were other teams.
"You can look at the fair play table," Wenger said. "Top of the table is Arsenal Football Club. Then you look at the team that gets more yellow cards after four or five fouls. It is Arsenal football club. Some teams get the first yellow card after 15 fouls. "Either I cannot read the (rule) book or something is wrong. You cannot get on one side five fouls for every yellow card and on the other side 15 fouls for every yellow card."
Stoke manager Tony Pulis has criticized Wenger for highlighting what he felt were bad tackles and unsporting behavior on Saturday, particularly since the Arsenal coach praised Stoke's spirit and combative attitude immediately after the game.
"I maintain what I said. I know what I said," Wenger said. "It's not transformed into bitterness after defeat." Walcott, Adebayor and fullback Bacary Sagna, who was an unused substitute on Wednesday, were all hurt in that game, although the only red card of the match was given to Arsenal's Robin Van Persie for a blatant barge on goalkeeper Thomas Soerensen.
Wenger suggested that the physical nature of the Premier League, which often takes young, inexperienced or overseas players time to adapt to, was the reason why Arsenal _ which is now winless in three games _ labored against a Fenerbahce team it beat 5-2 just two weeks ago.
"If you look at the results of the English teams none of them had lost in the Champions League until this week," Wenger said. "This week, none of them won, and that's maybe explainable by the fact that last week everybody gave a lot in the Premier League and maybe did not have the resources for the Champions League." That could hold true for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, but Chelsea routed Sunderland 5-0 with a partly second-string team on Saturday before capitulating 3-1 at AS Roma on Tuesday.
But Wenger was adamant that his team was not about to respond to what he sees as unfair provocation by opponents.
"I'm responsible for the behavior of my team," Wenger said. "So you look at the fair play table. That is the behavior of the manager with the referees, the behavior of the players on the field. I do not make that table. Instead of having a go at us, you should maybe look somewhere else."