Arsene Wenger says it was crowd pressure more than foul play that put Francis Coquelin in danger of a red card during today’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.
The midfielder was booked in the first half and committed a number of fouls subsequently, each one drawing louder bays from the home fans who obviously wanted their team to have the advantage of an extra man.
And while the Arsenal manager said it was that pressure that contributed to his decision to replace Coquelin with Oxlade-Chamberlain, he didn’t feel the player’s fouls were worthy of a second yellow.
“He didn’t deserve a [second] yellow card,” he said. “The pressure was on to get him sent off. I had a hesitation at half-time but I felt that the pressure was already there.
“After the last foul I thought there was not much room for a decision. Every time he intervened, the crowd were behind it and put the pressure on the referee.
“I felt that it was 60 minutes played, I didn’t want to take him off but I didn’t have much room.”
The manager’s thoughts were very much in contrast of Alain Pardiuex, who was critical of referee Lee Mason.
“He should have been sent off, but he didn’t make the call. Our bench thought he should have gone. Their bench did too, so taking him off was a natural reaction.
“The foul just before half time was debatable, a cynical challenge, but give people the benefit of the doubt. But you can’t make another one. The third one…”
He’s obviously upset. But that’s all right.