Arsenal shirt-swap scandal: Wenger cuffs Andre Santos
Santos to be dropped from Arsenal XI facing Schalke tonight despite apology to team-mates
IT'S OFFICIAL - Andre Santos lives in a "different world". Arsenal fans have been growing ever more concerned that an alien has inhabited the Emirates, and their worst fears were confirmed by Arsene Wenger during a press conference ahead of tonight's clash with Schalke in Group B of the Champions League.
Asked what he thought of Santos swapping shirts at half-time on Saturday with Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, Wenger replied: "I don't understand it. He is completely in a different world when he does that."
What world exactly Wenger didn't reveal, although he did try and defend the 29-year-old Brazilian. "It's interesting because Santos is a player who cares," explained the Nutty Professor. "If you speak with him, he gives an image of himself which is not him."
Pressed on what was going through the player's mind in asking for the shirt of a man who had scored within three minutes of kick-off against the club he used to skipper, Wenger blamed it on a "a difference of culture".
He then indicated that Santos had been told in no uncertain terms what he thought of his behaviour. "Believe me, he will never do it again," said Wenger. "I spoke to him about it but I do not want to make too big a story of it."
According to the Daily Mirror, Wenger tore a strip off Santos at the Arsenal training ground on Monday before the South American apologised to his team-mates. It's alleged he said swapping shirts is a tradition in Brazil but added: "I'm sorry to you - and for the upset for the club and the fans."
Despite the apology it's reported that Santos will be dropped from the Arsenal starting XI to face Schalke this evening in Germany, a match the Gunners must win if they're to put an end to their losing streak.
Arsenal are in the throes of the worst start to a Premier League season in the 16 years of Wenger's reign, and the Frenchman has admitted he's finding it as hard to take as the fans: "Of course it is frustrating. You think I am happy with not competing for the title? No. We want to get back into that position. I am confident we will bounce back and the team will find a rhythm of better performances."
Although the odd Arsenal fan might question Wenger's declaration that this current squad has "great players", they'll be pleased to see the manager admitting there are problems at the club. "The situation is serious," conceded Wenger. "We cannot say it's all right and the performance on Saturday [against United] is all right. It's not true. We want to perform better than that."