Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben has hit out against claims made by Arsene Wenger that he is a cheat, after the Bavarian club's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday night
Neil Ashton from The Mail Online reports that Robben responded to the Gunners boss after the German club's Champions League progression at the Allianz Arena. Wenger's team gave a spirited display but were unable to overturn the two-goal disadvantage that Munich had gained from the first leg.
Robben won a late penalty in the match but it was saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Wenger criticised Robben for acts of simulation after the game, resulting in a strong response from the Dutch international.
Ashton quotes Robben saying:
I always say if you are a big manager then take your loss, if you win be happy, enjoy, but if you lose don't complain about silly things. It was two penalties but I don't want to defend myself. From a big manager you expect a little bit more.
Wenger made his allegation of diving in reaction to Laurent Koscielny's stoppage-time foul on Robben, which conceded the spot-kick to Munich, per Ashton's report:
He is a very good diver, but that is the way it goes. It is the referee - Robben is a fantastic player, but he doesn’t need to do it. He gets in front of the player, he goes down. We spoke about this yesterday. If the referee gives him a yellow card he will not do it again.
Despite Wenger's words, former international referee Graham Poll praised second-leg match official Svein Oddvar Moen, via The Mail Online:
Arsene Wenger's fears that Norwegian referee Svein Oddvar Moen might be taken in by Bayern antics came to nothing. Moen had a super game, cautioning obvious misconduct by Dante and Lukas Podolski. Nor did he over-react when Podolski accidentally caught Javi Martinez.
It would have been very easy for him to send off Mikel Arteta, who flew into a late challenge when already on a yellow card. As for Bayern employing the ‘dark arts’, Moen really should have cautioned Arjen Robben for a blatant dive.
But he allowed play to continue after a push on Philipp Lahm by Podolski, who went on to score Arsenal’s equaliser. He got the late penalty correct though.
Robben represents the mindset of the modern footballer: Win at all costs. It is questionable if he is any different to any other forward who attacks with pace. Wenger might have chosen to focus on Robben to deflect the attentions away from his team, but his attempt was futile.
Robben is Munich's fourth-most-fouled player this season, per WhoScored.com, showing he does garner special attention from defenders.
The penalties earned by the Dutchman over the two legs appeared to be legitimate, and Wenger's words largely sound like sour grapes.
Wenger once defended diving in 2009 after a match against Manchester United. He said, per Daniel Taylor's article in The Guardian:
I think it is difficult with diving. Sometimes players dive to escape being hit. It's not always necessarily diving because you want to dive. Sometimes it's a way of getting out of the way. The borderline between being sensible, being shrewd or being a cheat is very slim so, in some cases, to assess which is which is very difficult."
These words suggest Wenger's stance against Robben cannot be fully justified. Players do indeed try to avoid injury by moving away from a tackle, and managers justify this the same way as Wenger did in 2009.
However, diving is something that is prevalent in the game today. Many of the best players in the world have made gaining fouls a scientific art. It is a weapon in a player's arsenal, used regularly around Europe.
As the rules around simulation are relatively weak, players will continue doing it.
There may be some truth in Wenger's comments regarding Robben, who does go down extremely easily. But it would be more fruitful to concentrate on his own team and the reasons for their recent dip in form.
The Gunners had such a great start to the season, and with the addition of Mesut Ozil looked like they finally had a team that could legitimately compete with elite clubs of Europe.
But we have seen similar issues resurface as with previous years. Arsenal still do not have the depth to sustain a challenge through a whole season, and Wenger must shoulder the blame for this.
It is a problem that will not go away, and the veteran manager must address it to make his team's challenge a credible one each season. No trophy in almost a decade proves this lack of depth and forward planning.
Commenting after a game in such a way about opponents does not help anyone, and does not reflect well on his football club. The focus needs to be on Arsenal solely, and their own shortcomings.