Arsenal's players have been accused of deliberately intimidating referees to get opponents sent off after Karl Henry was shown a red card for a challenge on Tomas Rosicky at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. The Wolverhampton Wanderers captain called the decision a "disgrace" and said Arsène Wenger's side were guilty of "rolling around getting people sent off".
"I'm bitterly disappointed with it, it wasn't a red card," said the midfielder. "Maybe a yellow card, but I think I would still have been screaming at the referee, so to get a red card for that is an absolute disgrace. Denilson has dropped Rosicky short, I've gone in to win it and I've nicked the ball. Their player has come in, [Thomas] Vermaelen and whoever else, trying to get me sent off. Two minutes later, Rosicky's up running around and absolutely fine. That's what they do here. I don't think it's pretty, it's not good. Their players moan when they get tackled, when they get hit hard, and so does Arsène Wenger.
"I certainly wouldn't be running over trying to get a player sent off. We know that's the game we are in – I think here in particular. Arsenal moan a lot, their players go down like a sack of spuds. They get hit hard like any other clubs do and we are hearing about it for weeks and weeks. To get sent off is a disgrace. They are a great side and we love Arsenal's great football, but when they are rolling around getting people sent off, it makes you not want to see them do so well."
Arsenal, who play Barcelona at Camp Nou tomorrow, will not take kindly to renewed suggestions that they are a soft touch when it comes to hard tackling and will be keen to put any controversy behind them as they prepare for their daunting Champions League quarter-final second leg.
Wolves are considering appealing to the Football Association against the red card although their manager, Mick McCarthy, knows the referee, Andre Marriner, is unlikely to retract his decision. Henry's challenge on Rosicky 24 minutes from time was untidy, the visitors' captain sliding in and taking the Czech's left leg while also appearing to connect with the ball. Vermaelen, Alex Song, Eduardo and Sol Campbell were quick to remonstrate with Marriner, "helping him make his decision", according to McCarthy.
The furious reaction of the Arsenal players was born of a feeling within the club that their players have been targeted in recent times. Wenger has called for his team to receive more protection after seeing the likes of Abou Diaby, Eduardo, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey suffer serious injuries in challenges in the last four years.
Asked whether he would condone his players' reaction in surrounding the official on Saturday, Wenger said: "They did [crowd the referee], but it's explainable by the recent history we have with injuries. With what happened to us it's still a trauma in the team. We do not want that, so we have to be careful, but the referee makes the decisions."
Wenger did concede that Henry had been "a bit unlucky" to see red, though that will be little consolation for the Wolves captain who is set to miss games against Stoke, Fulham and Blackburn. "It's sad to see you can't tackle any more in the game," added Henry.
"I'm only 27, I grew up watching some of the older games and I've seen tackles flying in. Today, it seems you can't make contact with anybody.
"I can understand how the referee gives a foul. But it was never a red card. It's an absolute joke."
Photo: Wolves' Karl Henry, centre, heads for the dressing room after being sent off by Andre Marriner for a tackle on Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky. Photograph: Tony O'Brien/Action Images