Wilshere red card untimely for Wenger

LONDON - Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere became the unlikely pin-up for the campaign to keep tackling in football after the teenager delivered an appalling challenge that earned him a straight red card on Saturday.

The slightly-built 18-year-old is known for his deft touch, vision and great passing but he looked more like a Sunday League clogger when his studs clattered into Birmingham City's Nikola Zigic late in Arsenal's 2-1 Emirates Stadium win.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was quick to seize on the "mistimed" tackle as a prime example of why people should stop complaining about the physical aspect of the game.

"It shows even great players can make bad tackles but it does not mean that every player should be vilified for a tackle they make," McLeish told Sky Sports News.

Alleged over-zealous tackling has been one of the Premier League's hot topics in recent weeks and was stoked up by Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy's claim that certain managers share much of the blame for pumping their players up too much.

Arsene Wenger has long been in the vanguard of attempts to limit the physical approach and seems to take great offence when an opponent dares to knock over one of his delicate ball-players.

In his programme notes for Saturday's match he returned to the subject, complaining about the quality of tackling in the current game.

"Managers have an important part to play, we are all responsible for the behaviour of our players," he wrote.

Wenger said Wilshere's red card was a correct decision.

"He mistimed his tackle and he got the red card he deserved," Wenger told www.Arsenal.com.

"But it was his first tackle in the game and you have to acknowledge that he got a red card and he deserved it but he didn't spend the whole game kicking people.

"He was one of the best players on the pitch, unfortunately it happened to him but I think it was more frustration. He didn't want to harm the player. We do not complain about his red card but you cannot say he had a dirty game."

McLeish, a no-nonsense centre back in his playing days, agreed and made reference to a previous incident in a game between the two teams in February 2008 when Arsenal striker Eduardo suffered a horrific leg break.

"It was a bad tackle but we know Jack Wilshere is not a dirty player," he said.

"For me, that should draw a line under the Martin Taylor tackle on Eduardo a couple of years ago because for weeks we bleated on that Taylor was innocent and he was not a nasty player and it's the same as Jack Wilshere."