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English stars have mastered art of diving, claims Wenger

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger says English players are now the "masters" of diving.

Simulation has been in the headlines this week following Dele Alli's booking for diving as Tottenham drew at Liverpool last Sunday.

Wenger made the remarks ahead of this weekend's north London derby against Spurs and after Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said diving was a "minimal issue" within the sport.

Arsenal manager Wenger has already escaped the wrath of the Football Association on the subject this season after claiming Raheem Sterling "dives well" following a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in November.

Pochettino said on Tuesday that 'tricking' an opponent was now part of the game but, while he believes he knows what the Argentinian was getting at, Wenger went on to point the finger at home-grown players.

"I am convinced that he wanted to say that tricking your opponent is to say that you have to be clever," he said when asked about Pochettino's comments.

"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."

While Alli was cautioned for simulation at Anfield, his team-mate and fellow England international Harry Kane was accused of a similar action by Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk as he won a contentious penalty.

Wenger was adamant that he would not actively encourage diving but said most attacking players would look to push the boundaries to gain an advantage.

"I don't tell my players to dive," he said. "But sometimes you want your players to be intelligent, they have played a little bit with the rules, they make more of it on the penalty case.

"Every striker will do that. They extend the rules. Where is it and how far can you go? That is down to referees and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine."

Arsenal head to Wembley to face Spurs having not beaten their rivals in the Premier League at White Hart Lane since 2014.

The Gunners are four points and one place adrift of their neighbours as they sit sixth.

But Wenger's men have won their last nine games at the national stadium, and the Frenchman is pleased to be back at Wembley.

Asked if he preferred the game to be at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane, Wenger replied: "Yes, because we have a positive history there.

"Wembley is a pitch that is quality, a stadium with a big crowd and it is always a special day in your mind so overall, yes. At Wembley you play special games where you are under pressure to perform and we responded well to it every time."

Goalkeeper Petr Cech is a doubt having been forced off in the win over Everton last week but Nacho Monreal should recover from illness in time to retain his place in defence.

Meanwhile, Pochettino has urged the Football Association to step in and judge whether Rochdale's pitch is good enough to host their FA Cup fifth-round match with Tottenham on Sunday, February 18.

Spurs are due to play at Spotland Stadium after Rochdale won their FA Cup fourth round replay on Tuesday. But the state of the sandy, muddy pitch, judged to be the worst in the Football League, has prompted serious worries.

Pochettino confirmed that he was worried about the pitch, which he said "was not in a condition to play football".

Pochettino is set to discuss the issue with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to "find a solution" to a fixture that could be a danger to players from both sides.

"I think you are going to struggle. But not only us, them too," Pochettino warned. "I think the FA need to assess how the pitch is and then to take a decision about if it's good for the FA Cup, good for the players, good for the teams to play in this type of pitch, in that condition that I think doesn't help football."

The pitch has seen one home game played in the last month - the fourth-round replay 1-0 win over Millwall on Tuesday - and there is little prospect of it improving much.

Pochettino is worried about his players getting injured but said that he is worried about Rochdale's players too.

"It's about providing a safe place to play for the players," Pochettino said. "I think it's a big risk to play in a pitch like this. If it is like the pictures, I think you cannot play football on it."

Pochettino urged the FA again to have another look at pitch or find another venue.

"Not because we are Tottenham, I think Rochdale cannot play there too," he said. "Maybe the FA need to try to take a very good decision for football. I am going to speak with the chairman to try to find a solution."

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