Arsene Wenger joked that English players “might even be the masters of diving now” at his press conference this morning.
The Arsenal manager was discussing the rise of simulation in English football over his 22-year spell here and how it is no longer seen as a foreign import into the English game. Because, as recent evidence shows, English players dive as much as anyone.
Dele Alli was booked for diving against Liverpool last Sunday – not for the first time – and Harry Kane was accused of going to ground easily for Tottenham’s first penalty, which was duly saved by Loris Karius.
Wenger is best described as a moderate anti-diver – he wants to see fewer penalties given when strikers knock the ball past opponents – but did see the funny side when talking about English players’ willingness to go to ground. “We have to get the diving out of the game,” he said at London Colney this morning.
“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now.”
While Wenger made clear that he does have sympathy with referees, he said that they should be less quick to give penalties to strikers who leave their foot in to draw the foul. In those instances, Wenger said, the striker was so obviously looking for the foul, rather than trying to play on, that they should not be given the benefit of the doubt.
“Sometimes you want your players to be intelligent, they have played a little bit with the rules, they make more of it, every striker will do that,” Wenger said.
“They extend the rules. That is down to the referees and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine. As much as I can be harsh with the referees, on that front I am quite tolerant with the referees. Because when you watch a game live it is very difficult at 100 per cent pace to distinguish whether it is a dive or not.”
“Most of the time, when a player is going to the goalkeeper, they push the ball away from goal,” said Wenger, who wants the old standards of penalty-awarding to be brought back. “I think they had a good rule in England when I arrived here: when the striker pushes the ball away from the goal, they didn’t give penalties. Because the only resource the striker has is to look for a penalty.
“In many cases, the [striker] goes and if the goalkeeper has their hands off, the striker leaves a leg as long as he can to make sure that the goalkeeper touches him. But that’s not really a penalty.”