Frustrated Wenger says referees are ‘protected like lions in zoo’
Arsenal manager’s frustration boils over as his team fall nine points behind Chelsea
Raheem Sterling scores Manchester City’s decisive second goal against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Arsène Wenger claimed Arsenal were the victim of two offside goals in their 2-1 defeat at Manchester City and he directed his anger at the match official Martin Atkinson, stating “referees are protected like lions in the zoo”.
The manager also rounded on the Premier League for its scheduling and on his goalkeeper, Petr Cech, for taking a short free-kick instead of putting the ball directly in the box in added time on a day Arsenal dropped to fourth place, nine points behind the leaders Chelsea.
Wenger’s side took the early lead through Theo Walcott before Leroy Sané levelled at the start of the second half and Raheem Sterling scored a 71st-minute winner. Sané did appear marginally offside for his goal while David Silva was the player Wenger believed was in a similar position for City’s second.
Wenger said: “We conceded two offside goals, which is very difficult to accept in a game of that stature. I feel enough is enough for us because we got some bad decisions for the whole season and today I looked at the goals – both are offside. The second one is five yards offside. But what can I do? The referees are protected in what is like the lions in the zoo so we have to live with that. I want them to be very well protected, I want them to be safe.”
Asked to clarify the remark, Wenger said: “It is too long a subject, I do not want to make referees the subject of the press conference. It is right they are safe and protected but if they make right decisions, even better.”
The manager indicated he was unhappy at Arsenal having had to travel to Merseyside last Tuesday to face Everton after beating Stoke the previous Saturday. Arsenal lost 2-1 at Goodison Park and Wenger questioned why some sides not involved in European competition the previous week played on Wednesday.
He believed this caused a tiredness that allowed Manchester City’s second-half comeback. “I felt we were in control and it didn’t look like we could lose the game and every time we stopped them from creating chances,” he said.
“We were caught cold in the second half and we dropped physically and when we won the ball it didn’t come out as clean as in the first. We’ve played four games away from home out of the last five [and] we had one day less recovery at Everton after everyone else. I feel there were plenty of teams who don’t play in Europe, big teams, who could have played on Tuesday and we could have played on Wednesday.”
While this is likely to refer to Chelsea and Liverpool, each of those sides had the same amount of rest, three days, as their weekend matches were on the Sunday.
In added time Cech took a short free kick when a team-mate might have punted the ball into City’s area. Atkinson blew the whistle and this caused further Wenger annoyance. Of Cech’s decision the manager said: “I was upset because I don’t see with 20 seconds to go why you play a short free-kick when you could play the ball in the box. The referee took advantage but he would have allowed the ball played in the box.”
To make matters worse, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained a muscular problem and Wenger was left hoping his team can now bounce back against West Bromwich Albion. “We have to come back next week and win our game [at home]. We had a horrible week and what is worse, out of two good performances we get zero points and out of two leading positions, we lose two games. For a while we have not kept a clean sheet. If you want to play at the top, you have to keep a clean sheet.”
City’s win lifts them to second place. “Seven points [behind Chelsea] is a huge distance,” Pep Guardiola said. “Today is a good day. We are second in the Premier League.”
The City manager again left John Stones out of the starting XI, as he did for the 2-0 win against Watford on Wednesday. “I just apologise to John because he doesn’t deserve to be out,” Guardiola said. “I love him a lot but I just tried to do the same back four we played against Watford.” Guardian service