Arsène Wenger has accused David Moyes of breaking the unwritten code of managerial conduct, as the row over the Arsenal captain Cesc Fábregas's behaviour in the tunnel against Everton on Tuesday night rumbled on.
Moyes claimed Fábregas had said something "disgusting" about the match officials at half-time on Tuesday, as the midfielder raged about how the referee, Lee Mason, could have allowed Louis Saha's 24th-minute goal to stand, despite claims of offside. According to sources in the tunnel, Fábregas shouted "How much have you been paid?" as he walked towards the dressing room. Moyes said that Fábregas should have been sent off for the slur.
But Wenger has hit back, condemning Moyes for revealing secrets that he feels ought to remain behind closed doors and claiming that Fábregas is the victim of a witch-hunt. The Arsenal manager maintained that Fábregas had not said anything to Mason but it has emerged that the Spaniard's comments were directed at the fourth official, Kevin Wright. Mason made no mention of the flashpoint in his match report.
"I believe it is wrong for Moyes to come out on what he pretends to have heard in the tunnel," Wenger said. "If I come out with what I have heard in the tunnel in the last 10 years, you would be amazed. There is a rule in our job to never come out with what is said in the heat of the moment. That is usually respected by everybody.
"Look at the facts. On what kind of accusation do you go against Cesc? The officials say nothing happened. I say nothing happened, and I was next to the referee, and just because a statement comes out [from Moyes] which doesn't even say what Cesc is supposed to have said, you have to create a whole fuss about that."
Wenger strongly believes that Fábregas is more sinned against than sinner. The World Cup winner has come under fire of late, including from Huddersfield Town's players for not swapping shirts with them after last Sunday's FA Cup tie, but Wenger suggested that the accusationstions Fábregas faced were trivial when compared with the treatment he had to endure.
"I'm always surprised that we do not pick up on people who run behind him and just kick him," Wenger said. "They get away with it and he is accused of something, and that cannot be right if you love football. He gets a rough ride in every single game. When Cesc is on the pitch, he tries to play football. I cannot say everybody who plays against him tries to do that.
"Some people reproach him for not exchanging shirts with a player after the game but I hope he will not exchange shirts with players who try to kick him for 90 minutes and then come to say 'Please can I get your shirt'. I think that is a normal and natural reaction."
Wenger was asked whether he thought there was a witch-hunt against Fábregas. "Yes," he replied. "We are long enough in the job to know that somebody picks on you for a while, and you are in the heat of the moment."
Wenger dismissed the notion that Fábregas's behaviour and the negative headlines that he has attracted were harming Arsenal's image. "You cannot cheat people all over the world," he said. "Ask them, 'Do you love football?' Yes. 'Do you love Arsenal?' Yes.
"People watch what happens on the football pitch. Do they like it? Yes or no, I can accept that. But you do not cheat people. Do you really think a guy in a village in India will not like Arsenal any more because David Moyes said Cesc Fábregas is supposed to have said something to the referee?"
Fábregas has admitted to saying things "in the heat of the moment" and, taking a broader view, Wenger said coarse language was the inevitable by-product of the game's intensity. Moreover, it was impossible to ask a competitor like Fábregas or any Premier League captain to be an angel all of the time.
"You want somebody to give absolutely everything in every single game, to be highly motivated, to be ready to die and, as well, to be politically correct?" Wenger said. "You have the example of Gary Neville who retires; fantastic player, fantastic career. You think you have never heard him talking in the tunnel? You have to have a little bit of tolerance as well with what is happening in the tunnel."
Wenger said Alex Song would miss Saturday's trip to Newcastle United with a thigh injury but Theo Walcott would be fit. He confirmed that Lukasz Fabianski was out for the season because of shoulder surgery.
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