By now, most Arsenal supporters and football fans have probably seen Arsène Wenger's remarks from his press conference this morning about the incidents during and after the UEFA Champions League match against Barcelona on Tuesday (press conference available to ATVO subscribers here). The Guardian has offered a summation of his remarks about the incident:
"Arsenal football club has been punished," Wenger said. "When you have a football game of that stature, you cannot come out with decisions like that and show a lot of arrogance on top of that. We can all understand that we can make wrong decisions but, after that, it becomes dictatorship. It's not common sense any more.
"A bit more humility would do Uefa some good. To apologise for what happened would be much better than to charge people who have done nothing wrong. Uefa has to have a little bit [of a] low profile after what happened. That would be better, more sensible and more adapted to the situation."
Wenger delivered these words in response to a question about the UEFA charges against him and Samir Nasri, and he spoke calmly about it. There is no doubt that he was perhaps unwise, however, to speak his mind so freely when the hearings have yet to take place. The fact that he used the word "dictatorship" in association with UEFA, even if he did not directly call them one (unlike what the headline implies), is probably not the shrewdest move the manager will ever make.
Many supporters have said that the red card against Robin van Persie destroyed the match, that Arsenal were both in the ascendancy and through to the next round when it occurred, and while that is factually true, the red card arguably didn't change the match as much as the earlier denial of a penalty kick to the Catalans did. Wenger is right to feel aggrieved about the call against van Persie, though; it was ridiculously pedantic and extremely unforgiving.
Wenger continued thusly:
"We are out of the Champions League, we have lost one of our big ambitions, we have been punished with a lot of damages and, on top of that, we have to say sorry to Uefa. We have done nothing wrong. They organised the competition, they named the referees who come to the games. It's not to me [they should apologise]. They do not punish me. It's Arsenal football club that has been punished."
He is also right to point out that UEFA's response to remarks he allegedly made to match official Massimo Busacca feel a bit petty-minded in light of the situation, and he also said that "I don't want to go public on that" when asked about remarks that Busacca allegedly made to him in the tunnel.
Wenger certainly knows that the current climate of officials coming under fire from all sides is, if not worse than ever, certainly extremely hyped at the moment, and that UEFA and FIFA are likely to come down heavily on any misstep towards an official. The manager has never been shy to express his opinion about controversial subjects within football, and this occasion has proven to be no exception, but perhaps a bit more realpolitik was necessary.
On the other hand, Wenger may be playing a long game, here, making his remarks now, knowing that matches he may miss as a result of a disciplinary ban would be in the early group stages. Perhaps he's hoping that his stance will cause UEFA to reconsider how they do things in the future (however unlikely that seems), and sees that move as worth missing two group stage matches over. Now that he has offered this, ahem, "critique" of UEFA's policy and politics, however, one wonders if they won't find a way to increase the punishment somehow.
While Wenger's remarks are just his opinion, and while he said them rationally and without anger, he may have shown a little imprudence on the occasion, despite being asked directly about the UEFA charge. Has he gone too far?