Arsene Wenger refuses to criticise Danny Welbeck for diving

AC Milan’s Gattuso; ‘When I was a player, I’d try to take advantage of individual situations’

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck appealing for a penalty at the Emirates Stadium, London. Photograph: PA

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck appealing for a penalty at the Emirates Stadium, London. Photograph: PA

 

Danny Welbeck was widely accused of diving to win a penalty as he scored a brace in Arsenal’s Europa League win over AC Milan — but manager Arsene Wenger refused to criticise the striker.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Italy, the Gunners were shaken by Hakan Calhanoglu’s long-range strike but hit back to win 3-1 on the night and assure themselves of a spot in the quarter-finals with a comfortable 5-1 aggregate success.

Welbeck levelled with just his third goal in 26 games by winning and converting a dubious penalty after going down under minimal contact from Ricardo Rodriguez.

On the day he returned to the England squad, Welbeck was accused of a “blatant dive” by former English captains Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker.

The decision was so soft, almost three-quarters of respondents to a poll sent out from the official Arsenal Twitter account said they would not have awarded the penalty.

Wenger, however, did not follow suit and said he would want to see the incident more clearly before making a decision over whether the former Manchester United man dived.

“I haven’t seen it again,” he said.

“Do you want to accuse English players of being divers?

“There’s two things: was it a penalty or not? I don’t know. The Italian players were unhappy with it. I can understand that, because I don’t really know what it was.

“After that, Danny took the penalty in a convincing way, and I will watch it again and give my honest feeling about it.

“I will give him my honest feeling about it as well (if I view it as a dive), don’t worry.”

Arsenal’s progression into the last eight was assured when Granit Xhaka’s tame effort somehow beat Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Milan goal.

Welbeck then added a late third with a close-range header to secure an impressive result over their Serie A opponents.

“(Welbeck’s) a striker, he has to do what he does,” Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso said.

“We can’t use that as a reference for English football. There’s a great deal of fair play in England.

“When I was a player, I’d try to take advantage of individual situations, but I’m not going to judge these things.

“I don’t want to talk about the referee (Jonas Eriksson). I don’t want any alibi. In the same way Donnarumma made a mistake, as you can, a referee can make a mistake as well.”

The likes of Atletico Madrid, Lazio, Sporting Lisbon and CSKA Moscow now await in Friday’s quarter-final draw, with Wenger naming Atletico as favourites for the trophy.

“Maybe the biggest favourite is Atletico Madrid, but what I like doesn’t matter too much because I have no influence (on the draw),” he added.

“We have to wait and see who we get. If we get Atletico Madrid, we get Atletico Madrid.”

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