Santos 'sorry' for RVP shirt swap but Arsenal defender will still be a fall guy
07:04 GMT, 6 November 2012
Even after apologising to Arsene Wenger and his team-mates for making that embarrassingly premature move for Robin van Persie’s shirt on Saturday, Andre Santos is unlikely to be back in Arsenal colours on Tuesday evening.
The under-fire Brazilian is in serious danger of losing his place, with Wenger considering significant changes to his defence for a hugely important Champions League encounter against Schalke.
It is not because of one error of judgment at the end of the first half at Old Trafford, when he took the bizarre decision to ask a certain former Arsenal striker for a swap; it is because of mistakes of a purely sporting nature.
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Slammed: Andre Santos (left) was criticised by fans and now his manager after trying to swap shirts with Robin van Persie at half-time during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United
Centre of attention: Santos was in training on Monday ahead of Arsenal's Champions League tie against Schalke
A TIME AND A PLACE
One of Robin van Persie's most treasured possessions is a shirt that Ronaldo wore when the pair shared the same pitch for a UEFA Cup clash between Feyenoord and Inter Milan.
Van Persie was a fresh-faced, 18-year-old, gracing the same European semi-final as one of the game's greats.
The Dutchman will probably have that jersey for the rest of his days.
Andre Santos is 29. He's a Brazil international, playing for Arsenal, with spells at Corinthians and Fenerbahce under his belt.
Why he felt the need to ask Van Persie for his shirt at half-time on Saturday confused most of us watching Manchester United's win over the north Londoners.
It also angered the Gunners faithful. Several supporters reckoned they were first with 'it was the closest Santos got to Van Persie all day' gag.
The shirt-swap is a gesture, and most would agree that football, as it takes a new battering every week, needs sportsmanship.
But there's a time and a place. When the whistle blows at the end of the game, wear what you like.
The brunt of Arsenal fans’ frustrations in recent weeks, Santos is finally being held accountable for his displays.
Wenger had given serious consideration to handing Kieran Gibbs an early recall from injury before deciding on Monday morning that playing him tonight would not be worth the risk. Instead, he has identified Saturday’s clash against Fulham as the England man’s comeback game.
But Wenger was on Monday plotting another option, removing Santos from his defence in a switch that would see Thomas Vermaelen shifted out to left back and Laurent Koscielny deployed as partner to Per Mertesacker in the heart of the back four.
Santos can only hope the apology he is understood to have issued — after learning of the furore he caused when his misguided approach to Van Persie was caught on camera — is enough to secure him a place elsewhere.
On Tuesday, Wenger gave Santos a public rap across the knuckles for his behaviour, even if he did also defend him against some of the criticism.
‘I spoke about that with him but I do not want to make too big a story of that,’ said the Arsenal manager.
‘I believe that was not the right thing to do at all, but that is not an explanation of our bad performance on Saturday.
‘I don’t even understand it, but it’s interesting because Santos is a player who cares. He gives an image of himself which is not him.
'He is serious, he wants to do well. The shirt thing is a difference of culture. I can understand that an English guy doesn’t understand it. I’m French and I don’t understand it either.
'But he is completely in a different world when he does that. He understands today what it means and, believe me, he won’t do it again.’
Ill advised: Santos accosted Robin van Persie at half-time
Controversial: Van Persie left Arsenal for 24million to Manchester United in summer
Unhappy: Arsene Wenger let Santos know that it was inappropriate to swap shirts with Van Persie before the game was up
Sportsmail understands the 29-year-old did not make the apology under duress from Wenger, who, privately, is said to have taken a relaxed view on the issue.
Santos, speaking to The Sun on Tuesday, said: 'I'd like to apologise to supporters who felt aggrieved by it. Did I think it would cause such a commotion Of course I didn't, otherwise I would have told Robin to exchange the shirts away from public view.
'Robin's departure to United did not turn him into an enemy for me. We remain friends and he talked about exchanging shirts, which is something players do all the time. I just want people to understand he is my friend and I wouldn't treat him differently because of the move to United.
'He approached me at half-time and at the time I did not think it would create such an uproar. I would never refrain from saying 'hi' to a good friend.
'It surprised me that people latched on to a gesture that promotes friendship and fair play. Arsene Wenger had asked the supporters to show respect towards Robin, after all.'
Given Wenger’s injury problems in wide attacking areas, with Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey out and Theo Walcott struggling with an upset stomach, Santos could yet find himself used in an advanced position.
The Brazilian is not the only Gunner guilty of defensive errors in recent weeks.
Fingers have also been pointed at Vermaelen and goalkeeper Vito Mannone, who have made costly errors.
Like Santos, Mannone is also likely to be dropped on Tuesday for the fit-again Wojciech Szczesny.
However, Wenger insists it is not
only defensively where his side have let themselves down.
in our defence are a bit about confidence and bad luck,’ said the
‘Vermaelen is in good form physically, but you have to
accept sometimes that human beings go through periods where it goes less
well. We are more concerned about where our creativity has gone.
defensive record is not very bad. Of course, in the three big games of
the season — Chelsea, Schalke and Man United — we made defensive
mistakes. But at the moment, we are not used to playing games and not
creating chances. That’s what we want to rectify because that is our
‘We have been
criticised many times for giving chances away but we are not used to
being criticised for not creating, because we have a team that is based
Tough task: Arsenal now turn their attentions to Schalke in their bid to progress in the Champions League
Star man: Santi Cazorla scored Arsenal's consolation goal at Old Trafford on Saturday
VIDEO: Wenger doesn't doubt Santos' commitment