Big Sam: Arsene once had the dirtiest team in the league
Published 23:00 27/08/10 By Jeremy Butler
Sam Allardyce has accused Arsene Wenger of having a short memory for taking a pop at robust Rovers, despite once fielding the Premier League’s “dirtiest” side.
The Frenchman has a long history of verbal tussles with the Blackburn chief, going back to when his Arsenal ball players were regularly knocked out of their title-chasing stride by Allardyce’s old Bolton bully boys.
Wenger has fanned the flames again ahead of today’s early kick-off at Ewood Park, voicing fears the game could turn into a rugby match as Rovers’ giants pray on the north Londoners’ frailty at set-pieces.
The prickly sound bite was music to Big Sam’s ears and he snapped back with a sharp response to Wenger’s whining by pointing to the Gunners team he built in his early days at the club.
Allardyce said: “I have to remind Arsene about his own team which used to win the League – as it was the dirtiest team in the Premier League.
“If you cast your mind back to when they used to win the title they had more sendings off and bookings than anyone else ever before.
“Back then players like Vieira, Petit, Campbell and Keown would mix it anyway you wanted to mix it.
“They would say, ‘C’mon what kind of game do you want to play?’ and then completely dominate you, however you played.
“His change of tactics from that day to this are quite remarkable. His team is now bred on getting the ball down, passing and moving, which we all agree is the most pleasing football to watch.
“But they are still not as good as his old team. They could do it anyway you wanted to and still win the League and Cup.
“It caused huge fear before you faced them because you wondered ‘How can we play to beat them?’.
“Now there is a way to beat them because I have done it over many matches with both Blackburn and Bolton.”
Allardyce reckons his mind games with Wenger have been key to several of those wins, including the 2-1 Rovers victory on the final home game of last season.
He added: “I’m not fed up with Arsene going on at all. In fact, I’m disappointed Rafa Benitez has left Liverpool because it was a challenge.
“I always enjoy the psychological side of the Premier League. It is a wonderful thing to keep your wits about you and do little things to try and help your team win.
“And if Arsene is saying something now, it means he is worried before we even start, which is a positive from our point of view.
“It means they are worried about what we are going to do because last season we managed to beat them within the rules, contrary to what he says, otherwise the referee would have given free-kicks against us.
“I’m a little bit surprised he bites so easily. But it is not just about this next game.
“It’s been over a period of years with me, because we have found a niche, an opportunity and a way to beat Arsenal.
“The players produced the right quality technically and tactically on several occasions at Bolton, and here on the final home game of last season, which is why we won.
“It’s nothing to do with breaking rules, or bullying. In fact, we never have got the credit we deserved for our technical and tactical work, me as a manager or the players.
“We should never beat Arsenal, but we do. It is not rugby tactics because they are illegal in football.
“Until the game becomes a non-contact sport the physical side will always be important.
“Anyway, they are not without physical players. Don’t be suckered in by Arsene’s talk that they are a nice pretty team. They can mix it up if they want to.
“It is not what Arsene promotes, but they can stand up to a physical challenge, don’t worry about that.”