Arsene Wenger believes that his team now have to prepare for referee’s decisions being skewed against them, and complained that perceived favourable decisions Tottenham Hotspur received on Tuesday night were insufficiently covered by the media.
Then, in an emotional press conference after Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Wednesday evening, Wenger insisted that there was in fact too much coverage of refereeing controversies, and that “it would be nice at some stage to speak about football again”.
Wenger was visibly furious after the game in which Chelsea cancelled out Arsenal’s lead with a penalty, after Eden Hazard went down following a Hector Bellerin challenge in the box. Wenger repeatedly described the decision as “farcical”, connecting it to the last-minute penalty Arsenal gave away at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon, another decision that cost them two points. Wenger said after that game that referees were living “in the dark ages” and he was charged yesterday by the Football Association for what he said in the match officials’ changing room at the Hawthorns. Wenger confirmed tonight that he will appeal that decision, “100 per cent”.
In a forthright performance, Wenger was clear that he had nothing to apologise for. “You can listen to every interview I said, I stick to everything I said, without any problem,” he said. “I am 35 years in football, I know what I say after the game. And I stand up for what I said, no problem.”
But Wenger reiterated his belief that Arsenal are getting consistent bad treatment from referees, especially in penalty decisions, so much so that they now have to factor it into their preparation for matches.
“I knew before the game that the last 20 minutes could be difficult for us, because we have a big disadvantage with the schedule,” Wenger said. “And we got again a farcical decision on a penalty, but we knew that as well before. So we have to deal with that.”
Despite claiming that he was “fed up” with talking about referees, Wenger then said that the decisions Spurs got in their 2-0 win at the Liberty Stadium had not been adequately covered. Fernando Llorente was offside when he scored Spurs’ opening goal, and Davinson Sanchez could also have been sent off.
“The referees get away with it, with the English press, always no matter what they do,” Wenger said. “You watched the game last night. You couldn’t read a line about it today. So that’s it, nothing will change. So we have to deal with that and to live with that.” Asked to clarify if he meant the Spurs game, Wenger confirmed it. “The referee decisions influence the game, no? But nobody talks about it. So that means nothing will change.”
After all his fury about refereeing decisions, Wenger then made a surprising change of tack, and argued that he did not want to talk about referee’s decisions, that he did not want to be asked about it, and that everyone should focus on football instead.
“What I find terrible is that we have just seen a great football game and we talk only about things that are nothing to do with football,” Wenger said. “I would love at some stage that you stand up in the morning and say ‘we’ve seen a great football game’. But you’re not interested in that. And for me, that would be nice, that at some stage we speak about football again. What are we talking about? It’s nothing to do with football.”
He soon returned to his new theme. “I would love to talk about football, because that is what I love,” he said. “And we have seen a great football game tonight. What are we talking about? Not about football.”