Arsene Wenger has taken another swipe at the standard of the Premier League’s referees and reiterated his belief that Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling dived to win a penalty in Arsenal’s recent 3-1 defeat at the Etihad.
Michael Oliver pointed to the spot three minutes after half time after the England international went down under pressure from Nacho Monreal; a decision that caused consternation on the Gunners bench.
Speaking to beIN Sports about the incident, the boss was keen to divert blame away from Sterling and towards the officials, whose overall quality he feels is deteriorating.
“I didn’t say it [that he dived], in a negative way. I said he used the fact he was in front of our defender to dive and he dived. In a few years, he will say that as well. In the heat of the moment, of course, he will deny it. He used well, in his position, to get in front.
“A penalty is a deliberate foul in the box, it’s not a provoked foul in the box, that’s where the difference is and in a big game like that you have to look at the defender and what he’s doing, not at what the striker is doing. The striker will always go down.
“If it was one of my strikers, he would have gone down certainly as well. He is not to blame, Raheem Sterling, he used his advantage to fool the referee. That’s what he did. I don’t blame Raheem Sterling, I just say for me, it was a dive.”
Asked whether he’d applaud one of his players for winning a penalty under similar circumstances, Wenger admitted he would, while also taking another shot at the quality of the officiating in England.
“Of course, of course. He used the naivety of the referees in a positive way. That’s why I said the referees don’t work, they don’t do their homework.
“The referees are professional in England, it’s one of the few countries where they are professional, look at their schedule and look how many will go to the World Cup. Then you have the answer.”
Despite suggestions, he might get a slap on the wrist from the FA for his post-match comments about the referee, Wenger made clear that he’d continue to speak his mind on the subject.
“I don’t mind [if they punish me]. I’ve been in the job 35-years and that won’t change my mind or change the way I think. In this game, we conceded a penalty that wasn’t a penalty and an offside goal that was an offside goal. They should better look at themselves rather than blame other people for comments who have to absorb those wrong decisions and stand up for it.”