Leeds United v Arsenal: Admission shows I am honest - Walcott

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott has defended his decision to own up diving against Leeds United, despite fears that English referees might question his integrity as a result of his actions.

Walcott exposed himself to criticism by holding his hands up to a cynical attempt to win a penalty in the FA Cup third-round tie between Leeds and Arsenal on January 8, but the 20-year-old said he was right to admit his guilt and protect his reputation as an "honest" player.

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Referee Phil Dowd was initially convinced by Walcott's dive in the closing minutes of a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium, and the official only retracted his award of a penalty after one of his assistants

raised an offside flag.

Walcott escaped a booking for simulation and was also spared any punishment by the Football Association after publicly apologising to both Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Leeds United's Simon Grayson.

The England international was involved in another penalty incident on Saturday following a clear foul on him by Wayne Bridge during Arsenal's Premier League game at West Ham United. The spot-kick – scored by Robin van Persie – sealed the Gunners' 3-0 win.

Asked if his dive against Leeds might influence the interpretation of similar situations, Walcott said: "If I'm going to be punished for being honest then I can't win. But it's in the past and I've forgotten about it.

"I've got no regrets about what I said. I'm an honest player, and I want to be honest with my team-mates, Leeds, the manager and all the staff. That's the sort of player I am."

FIFA regulations prevented the Football Association from punishing Walcott's dive retrospectively, and governing body ruled that his comments in a post-match interview at the Emirates Stadium did not breach FA rules.

The winger is free to play in tomorrow night's replay between Leeds and Arsenal at Elland Road but Walcott does not expect to be castigated for

his dive at the Emirates.

"People say that if you get the slightest touch you should go down," he said.

"When you do go down they have a go at you for going down so you can't win. If the referee's going to punish me or any other players then I can't do anything about that."

Walcott was used as a substitute in the initial meeting with Leeds and eventually won the legitimate penalty which earned Arsenal a replay in the final minute of a dramatic clash.

Wenger has indicated that he will rotate his squad again in West Yorkshire, resting a number of the players who sealed their valuable league win over West Ham on Saturday night. The fixture against Leeds is Arsenal's fifth in the space of a fortnight.

Wenger said: "Our success depends on the way the whole squad can focus on different competitions. I believe we have the quality no matter what I do to qualify.

"The timing is not the best but it is down to us because we could have beaten Leeds at home."

Felix Wiedwald.

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