Gerrard can dive, but Arsenal's foreign legion will always get raw deal

By Avenell Dave

When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal, he was mocked and questioned for his urbane disposition and non-conformist attitude to management.

His lack of high level football playing experience and questionable credibility after a stint in Japan prompted jokes by the likes of Tony Adams and Ray Parlour.

But it all changed when he won the Double in his first full season, combining continental flair with British grit.

By going a season unbeaten, he ensured that he goes down in history as one of the greatest managers the game has ever seen and yet peple still question him.

I’ve lived in Italy in the past, a country not known for its colonies and while right wing attitudes and Mussolini calendars are commonplace, their tolerance to overseas players is limited.

Only the likes of Kaka or Shevchenko or Batistuta really capture their hearts, with the rest are heroes or zeroes depending on their performances.

The homegrown players always get an easier ride and the fans are more accepting of their shortcomings or mistakes.

Sound familiar?

If Theo Walcott was called ‘Helder’ or 'Jose' would the Arsenal fans be so patient with him?

Does the yearning for Kieran Gibbs or Jack Wilshere to come good come down simply to wanting to get more homegrown players into the side or a bias towards English footballers?

I’ve written recently that Wenger has been burnt by English players in the past and with prices so exorbitant, you can’t blame him for not investing in English talent.

It could be argued that part of the reason why costs are so high is that English players are made of sterner stuff than their overseas counterparts.

It could be argued that they understand what it means to play for a particular team more than someone who simply wants to experience a different culture, poorer defenders or higher wages.

Steven Gerrard is an exceptional player, one of those who can win a game on his own with his long range shooting, all signing all dancing determination and drive.

He’s not become England captain for the same reasons John T*rry shouldn’t have been given the armband in the first place – too much personal baggage either in the public domain or likely to come out.

It must be frustrating to captain your hometown club and never win the title – especially when almost everyone else he plays with at international level has done so.

And while we should all be celebrating Arsenal’s spirit to play badly and win against a Liverpool side coming into form after the setbacks of the past fortnight, Gerrard’s moaning seems to be the big story.

You can't blame the media for picking up on his rant, listening to an England golden boy rather than looking at the bare facts, but boy is it frustrating.

Every time he could, Gerrard fell over on Wednesday. Remember Eduardo winning a penalty earlier in the season and how it created a storm?

Funny how the likes of Gerrard and Shrek R**ney don’t ever get the same level of criticism. Engerlund myopia I think it’s called.

Despite the dubious nature of the free kick Liverpool won in the first place, the ball did hit Cesc Fabregas’s hand. He was outside the box as far as I could see, but time was up anyway.

When Nick Bendtner went down in the box, he got a booking and I have heard varying reports that it was a complete dive, in which case, shame on you Nick, to those who say there was contact and it was harsh to be booked.

Did Gerrard get booked for a clear dive later on in the game? No, the ref waved his protests away and that was that.

The fact that Arsene Wenger plays an almost entirely overseas side, save for Walcott whose form doesn’t justify a starting berth, will always leave us open to criticism and it’s something we have to accept.

Maybe one of these days we’ll get another penalty as well, but I think two a season may be all we can hope for these days.

Victory may grow through harmony, but strength through adversity could be our greatest weapon in the months to come.