Joey Barton and Arsenal are friends again after Arsène Wenger praise

Arsène Wenger has praised Joey Barton's "courage" and described the Newcastle United midfielder as "a great player".

Joey Barton and Arsenal are friends again after Arsène Wenger praise Although the prospect of Arsenal's manager making an imminent move for Barton remains unlikely, it appears his mind is perhaps not entirely closed to the possibility of recruiting a troubled talent currently available on a free transfer.

"I like the courage of the player," said Wenger shortly after Barton's role as an agent provocateur had prompted Gervinho's sending-off during a fiery encounter at St James' Park.

"Nobody dismisses signing Joey Barton but I don't think we envisage doing that at the moment," added the Frenchman following his team's goalless draw on Saturday evening. "He's a good player. Sometimes there's trouble with his temper but he's a great player." A touch of Gallic humour followed. "Maybe the way to sort Barton out is to sign him," joked Wenger. "Maybe that's the solution."

Suspecting that Gervinho had dived in the face of a 74th-minute Cheik Tioté challenge, Barton grabbed the Ivorian by the throat and hauled him to his feet. Newcastle's Steven Taylor subsequently intervened as peacemaker but, when Gervinho slapped Barton, the midfielder collapsed as if poleaxed by a punch.

"I shouldn't have gone over and pulled Gervinho up by his shirt, that's not the correct way to deal with it," Barton admitted on BBC Five Live last night. "I should have let the referee [Peter Walton] handle it. I shouldn't have done what I did. We [footballers] sometimes push the boundaries in trying to get an advantage.

"I did go down easily but I felt disappointed by Gervinho trying to win a penalty. I have made a meal of it, I've been pushed harder by people at school but I can't take responsibility for Gervinho's actions."

He did, however, concede he was wrong to accuse Gervinho of diving and accepts Tioté caught the striker. "After seeing it on Match of the Day I have to take back calling him a cheat," he said. "But I thought it was blatant diving."

After intervening Taylor seemed to accuse Gervinho of elbowing, rather than slapping, Barton but, in a comment which may not be seen as a joke in Newcastle's dressing room, the latter told 606: "Tayls is not the sharpest tool in the box."

While Barton is likely to evade any punishment for his reaction, the Football Association may impose a three-match ban on Alex Song if, as expected, the referee's report confirms that he did not spot his earlier stamp on the Newcastle midfielder. However, Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder who missed Saturday's match through injury, expressed his outrage at Barton's actions on Twitter: "That's a form of assault, it shouldn't happen on a football pitch."

Barton's initial riposte included the comments: "Cheats win pens", "Imagine if I'd stamped on Song, all the numpties would be calling out for a public execution" and "Hopefully today proves my commitment."

Cesc Fábregas should complete his £35m move to Barcelona today subject to a medical. The details of the deal are understood to be a €14.5m (£12.7m) up-front payment, followed by another €14.5m in October. Arsenal will then receive €5m each year of the five years of Fábregas's Barça contract, plus €6m based on appearances, goals and honours.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Louise Taylor, for The Guardian on Sunday 14th August 2011 22.01 Europe/London

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