The irony was lost on no one at the Emirates on Saturday. Arsène Wenger wrote in his programme notes about the demise of the “technique of the tackle” before his Arsenal side’s 2-1 win over Birmingham City, but it was his team that ended the game with ten men.
Jack Wilshere, who put in an otherwise outstanding performance, was sent off in the 92nd minute for an ugly one-footed tackle on Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic.
The 18-year-old slid in over the top of the ball with the studs on his left boot raised and connected with the Serbian’s right ankle.
“He mistimed his tackle, he got a red card he deserved but it was his first tackle in the game,” admitted Wenger.
“He didn’t spend his whole game trying to kick people, he played football and was one of the best players on the football pitch today.”
Birmingham City manager, Alex McLeish, claimed Zigic was lucky not to get a “badly damaged leg” as he was reminded of Martin Taylor’s challenged on Eduardo da Silva two years ago.
“You know, we’ve had to put up with the Eduardo stuff for the last couple of years, every time we play Arsenal. In the programme today the interviewer is saying he’s going to go and interview Eduardo on ‘that’ tackle. It’s scandalous,” admitted the former Rangers manager.
“Martin Taylor, as we said at the time is not a dirty player but it was a mistimed tackle and it caused terrible damage to Eduardo, but that tackle could have caused Zigic a lot of damage but we know Jack Wilshere is not a dirty player, but it does show you that players can mis-time in this hurly burly game of football.”
Wenger was happy with the result, as goals from Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh rescued the three points after Zigic had put the away side ahead, though the Frenchman admitted that his team played with nerves.
“It was never comfortable today and you could see that and feel that in the way we played.”