The Gunners boss admits he was surprised to see clashes between fans during the Hammers’ win over Chelsea and says he is in favour of the reintroduction of standing
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says there is nothing worse than playing behind closed doors amid the prospect of a stadium ban being imposed on West Ham.
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The issue of hooliganism at English grounds has raised its head once more this week following the violence at London Stadium that marred West Ham’s EFL Cup win over Chelsea on Wednesday.
The Hammers’ new home has been beset by problems since the club moved from Upton Park in the off-season and there remains the possibility that further outbreaks of violence could result in the club’s London derby home game with Arsenal on December 3 being played without fans present.
Wenger is opposed to that possibility, telling reporters at his news conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Sunderland: “There’s nothing more dire than playing behind closed doors.
“I prefer not to play than to play in games behind closed doors.
“I am surprised more than disappointed because West Ham usually has a strong fan base who are very motivated. We are not usually facing this kind of problem anymore.”
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Wenger is an advocate of safe standing in football grounds and believes recent events have hindered arguments for the return of terracing at the top level in England.
He added: “I am in favour of the reintroduction of standing. The closer you are to the position of the player, the more passionate you are. It also allows you to have lower prices and maybe more passion inside the stadium.
“This is not a good advertisement for standing. I am surprised and hopefully West Ham will get rid of the problem very quickly.
“I don’t believe there is a problem with hooliganism in England. You can’t say with one minor incident – 200 hundred people or so – that there is a problem in the country.”
There is little chance of a repeat at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, although Sunderland fans could ramp up the vocal pressure on manager David Moyes following the team’s appalling start to the season.
While last-placed Sunderland have yet to win a league game this season, Wenger did offer his backing to former Everton and Manchester United boss Moyes.
He added: “They’re in a bad position but it’s early, it’s tight at the top and the bottom.
“David Moyes is an experienced manager so I think he will adapt to the strengths of his team and organise them as a team who can defend very well and catch us on the break and set-pieces.”
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Wenger is also wary of Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe, who continues to be a threat at the age of 34.
“Their main danger is Defoe,” he said.
“You have to admire him for what he has done. At his age, to move to the United States, you thought that was the end for him in the Premier League but it’s down to him that Sunderland stayed in the league last year.
“I don’t know him well but he’s absolutely amazing.”