Arsene Wenger has suggested that English players have become the "masters" of diving after both Harry Kane and Dele Alli were accused of simulation during Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday.
Specific names were not mentioned by Wenger but, ahead of Saturday's north London derby, Wenger was asked directly about Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino's claim that "football is about trying to trick your opponent". Pochettino also said that English football had become "so sensitive" about what he called "minimal details" after Alli was booked for a third time in his career for diving.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk also accused Kane of "diving clearly", even though the Tottenham striker was adamant that there had been contact for his penalty.
"I am convinced that he [Pochettino] wanted to say that tricking your opponent is to say that you have to be clever," said Wenger. "How far was it an apology for diving? I'm not sure at all. I don't think he would. In my personal case? No. We have to get the diving out of the game. 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."
Wenger accused England and Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling of diving earlier this season but, ahead of such a crucial derby match, his comments are likely to go down badly with Spurs fans. They will certainly also ensure an added spotlight on the decision of referee Anthony Taylor.
Arsenal have themselves faced major 'diving' controversies during Wenger's tenure, notably when Robert Pires went down against Portsmouth to help salvage a 1-1 draw in what became the 'Invincible' 2003-04 season. Eduardo was charged by Uefa for simulation against Celtic in the 2009 Champions League, although it was ultimately decided that there was insufficient evidence that he had deceived the referee.
Pochettino admitted that Alli deserved his yellow card on Sunday but Kane stressed that he "felt contact" and so "went down" following a challenge by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius. "I'm not going to jump out of the way because it's football," said Kane.
Pochettino claimed that situations like the Alli incident had become overanalysed and at his press conference on Thursday again pointed out that Michael Owen had dived when he famously challenged him in the 1998 World Cup for Argentina.
"I am honest always and I gave you what I feel," said Pochettino. "In 1998, I did not touch Michael Owen and he dived. Today you are so sensitive about details and sometimes it's difficult for me because, when you are honest you try to explain some things, and my language is not English. It's difficult to be right in my words and to use the right words."
Wenger was adamant that he has never told one of his players to dive but he did hint at a grey area when only limited contact has been made.
"I don't encourage them to dive at all," he said. "Sometimes you want your players to be intelligent, they have played a little bit with the rules and they make more of it on the penalty case. Every striker will do that. They extend a little bit the rules. Where is it and how far can you go? That is down to the referees and I think that, when you watch a game live, it is very difficult at 100 per cent pace to distinguish whether it is a dive or not.
"I think they had a good rule when I arrived here in England. When the striker pushes the ball away from the goal, they didn't give penalties because the only resource the striker has after is to look for a penalty. 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."
Wenger also confirmed that goalkeeper Petr Cech is yet to train following the calf injury he sustained against Everton but stressed that he would have complete confidence in starting David Ospina.
Wenger must also decide whether to retain the attacking 4-2-3-1 formation that helped Arsenal overwhelm Everton but may leave his team defensively vulnerable against Tottenham. Dominating possession, said Wenger, would be the best way to nullify Kane.
"The best way to defend is for us to have the ball and to take the game to them, and after - when we don't have the ball - to defend as a team," said Wenger. "He has high numbers. What you want is to keep him quiet and our strikers, who are top-class in Europe as well, to express their talent."
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