Wenger defends Wilshere over tackle

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has defended midfielder Jack Wilshere after the youngster was sent off in the 2-1 win over Birmingham on Saturday.

Wilshere was given his marching orders in stoppage-time at the Emirates Stadium after a studs-up lunge on 6ft 8in striker Nikola Zigic.

Wenger, who had used his programme notes to call for a clampdown on dangerous challenges, was forced to back-track, insisting Wilshere is not a malicious player.

“I don't think Jack saw the player he was tackling,” Wenger told reporters. “He just thought ‘I lost the ball, there's a minute to go, I must chase and win this ball back’, but he mistimed his tackle.

“You have to make a difference between an accidental red card and a team who tries to kick you from the first to the last minute. There is no comparison.

“Jack will learn from this. He is a beautiful player and he has the science of the game to be influential in the Premier League. We were all 18 once.”

The incident was reminiscent of the horrific leg brake suffered by Eduardo da Silva in 2008 following a similar challenge by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor.

And Blues manager Alex McLeish was quick to point out the hypocritical views of Wenger.

“We’ve had to put up with the Eduardo stuff every time we play Arsenal,” McLeish said.

“Martin is not a dirty player, but it was a mistimed tackle and it caused terrible damage to Eduardo. Today’s tackle could have caused Zigic a lot of damage. We know that Wilshere is not a dirty player, but it shows that players can mistime tackles.”

Wilshere's dismissal takes Arsenal's red card count up to three this season, the most in the Premier League.

By Luke Nicholls