Arsene Wenger feels the sting operation that led to Sam Allardyce being fired from the England job was “unfair.”
Wenger will renew his rivalry with Allardyce when Arsenal host Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Sunday, following the Englishman’s return to Premier League football.
Allardyce was sacked by the FA after just one game in charge of the national team after undercover journalists from the Telegraph posing as businessmen filmed him offering advice on how to get around FA rules on transfers.
Asked if he felt Allardyce had been unfairly treated by the FA, Wenger weighed his words carefully before answering: “It is a difficult situation because I feel the whole process [of a sting operation] is tricky and unfair. It was the same with Sven-Goran Eriksson at the time.
“You do not know, the guy can joke as well. How serious it was, it’s difficult to assess that situation. Overall I find the whole process tricky and unfair. … I don’t know how guilty he was of having done something wrong or not.”
Eriksson was also caught in a tabloid sting by “Fake Sheikh” Mazher Mahmood in 2006 talking about potentially quitting the England job and taking over Aston Villa, which the Swede later said was part of the reason he lost the job after that year’s World Cup.
The relationship between Wenger and Allardyce has been frosty at times but mellowed in recent years despite Allardyce having branded Wenger “arrogant” and a bad loser in the past.
However, an Allardyce team has not beaten Arsenal since 2010 and the Englishman has never recorded a victory at the Emirates going into Sunday’s game. It will be just his second game in charge at Palace, having replaced the fired Alan Pardew on Dec. 23.
The London club are 17th in the Premier League standings after a disappointing first half of the campaign, and Wenger said he was not surprised they turned to Allardyce in an attempt to turn things around.
“Today the clubs who are in trouble look for experienced managers. The position in the Premier League has become vital for everybody, to stay in the league has become an extremely big problem for everybody,” Wenger said. “When teams look for managers, he was one out there who has the experience and the quality.”
Allardyce is one of only four English managers in the Premier League, none of which is at a top club. Wenger, who was one of the first foreign managers in the league when he took over Arsenal 20 years ago, said he still believes and Englishman could get the chance to manage a title contender soon.
However, he added that the massive money involved in the Premier League means that even clubs who get promoted from the Championship with an English manager are less likely to take a chance on a younger unproven talent.
“I think somewhere when you are in a country you want the culture of the country to be represented and defended. I think it’s fair to have local people be at the top,” Wenger said.
“Once a chairman goes in the Premiership … the guy sits there and says, ‘Do I put a young guy, a promising guy in charge or do I take a guy with experience and gives me a certain guarantee to stay in the league?’ What will you choose when you will be chairman? That’s why I think most of the time they take now experienced people who can handle the pressure.”