Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien spoke out to defend his reputation after a string of controversial challenges, insisting: 'I'm not a dirty player.'
Essien, who signed from Lyon this summer for £24.4 million, compared himself to combative former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira in claiming he needed time to adapt to English football.
Despite widespread criticism of challenges on Bolton's Tal Ben Haim, Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann and Arsenal's Lauren, he insisted he had never deliberately set out to hurt an opponent.
Essien escaped with a booking for a dangerous challenge on Ben Haim against Bolton in October, with the Football Association barred from upgrading his yellow card to red by FIFA.
He was then punished with a two-match suspension by UEFA after they reviewed video replays of his knee-high challenge on Hamann during the Champions League group tie at Stamford Bridge last month.
However, Essien again escaped a dismissal when he was only booked for an apparent arm into Lauren's face at Highbury on Sunday, with no further punishment for another clash with Robin van Persie.
That led to renewed criticism of his physical approach, with Arsene Wenger claiming Essien deserved a red card for his challenge on Lauren as 'he did not play the ball, he played the player'.
The 23-year-old Ghana international responded: 'I feel the time is now right for me to speak about recent incidents in which I have been involved and I would like to make the following clear.
'During my career in football so far I have never gone out with the intention of hurting anyone in a tackle. Nothing I have ever done has been deliberate. I am not a dirty player.
'I have paid for a mistake on Dietmar Hamann with a suspension. That is sufficient punishment for someone like me who only ever wants to play football. Playing means everything to me.
'I phoned Dietmar personally to apologise to him. I assured him it was an accident and there was no malicious intent on my part. I believe he accepted this graciously and, as far as I am concerned, the incident is behind me.
'On Sunday the referee booked me for the challenge on Lauren. The midfield, especially in English football, is a physical and competitive place. I will always compete fairly but never with malice.'
Essien has consistently been defended by boss Jose Mourinho, who argued Arsenal set out to provoke the combative midfielder at Highbury - a charge denied by Wenger.
The Chelsea midfielder told the club's website: 'Like others before me, such as Patrick Vieira, I need time to adapt to English football.
'England is a great place to play and I love the style of the football. I would also like to thank my manager, team-mates and the Chelsea fans for their continued support.'
Essien will miss both legs of Chelsea's Champions League last-16 clash against Barcelona in February and March due to his UEFA ban.
However, the FA cannot take any further action against him in the wake of Sunday's match at Highbury as referee Rob Styles witnessed both incidents.