Down to ten men the guys from Arsenal came back to defeat Burnley 2-1. The win moves my Gunners into second place with 47 points.
The Guardians Amy Lawrence wrote: “Arsène Wenger risks an FA misconduct charge and touchline ban for an altercation with fourth official Anthony Taylor as his emotions got the better of him during the turbulent finale of Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Burnley.
The Frenchman has apologised for his actions, which happened after he was sent off following the visitors being awarded a stoppage-time penalty. Wenger tried to push Taylor out of the way when the official went to tell him that he was not allowed to watch from the corridor of the tunnel.
“I regret everything,” Wenger said. “I should have shut up, gone in and gone home. I apologise for that.”
Arsenal were trying to preserve a narrow lead going into seven minutes of stoppage time but conceded a penalty when Ashley Barnes was fouled by Francis Coquelin. “Look, it was nothing bad,” Wenger said. “I said something that you hear every day in football. Overall, nine times out of 10 you are not sent to the stand for that. If I am, I am, and I should have shut up completely. I was quite calm the whole game, more than usual. But just in the last two or three minutes…”
Wenger’s irritation at being dismissed was inflamed when Taylor insisted on sending the manager further away than his vantage point in the tunnel. “I thought I could watch it from the corridor,” he explained, and added that he watched the second penalty elsewhere on television.
That second penalty only added to the unfolding sense of high drama. This time it was Sean Dyche who was despairing, as Ben Mee’s high foot caught Laurent Koscielny in the face in the final seconds of a prolonged stoppage time. The Arsenal defender was offside, and Dyche was left ruing two debatable goals which turned a possible point into a defeat.
Burnley were also undone very late on by Arsenal at Turf Moor in controversial fashion earlier in the season. Dyche called it “bizarre, an unfortunate twist of fate. It cost us points”.
This time the Burnley manager lamented the quirk of the offside rule which means the assistant has to wait until the ball is touched before raising a flag, and suggested it would be a brave official to do so if the referee has already pointed for a penalty.
“He is offside, as simple as that. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth,” Dyche said. “The linesman has to give that. You don’t want to be crying. You just hope for balance over the season.” He concluded that video replays for major decisions are “the future”.
The penalties were not the game’s only flashpoints. Granit Xhaka was sent off in the 64th minute for a rash challenge and Wenger was clearly disgruntled with the midfielder, whom he criticised for a tendency to “punish” his team-mates with reckless moments. “The noises I get is that it was a red card. He has to control his game and not punish the team with a lack of control in his tackling.
“We don’t encourage our midfielders to go down on tackles. We want them to stand up and not make these kind of fouls. If it is a bad tackle, it is a red card.”
It leaves Arsenal short of central midfield options, with Mohamed Elneny on duty with Egypt at the African Cup of Nations and Santi Cazorla suffering with a long-term injury. Asked specifically if he was disappointed in Xhaka, Wenger chose his words carefully: “I am disappointed that we played with 10 men.”
The silver lining for Wenger was the character that the remaining men showed to keep chasing for a meaningful win. “We have got two red cards and [conceded] four penalties at home now so you cannot say that we make it easy for ourselves or that we get it easy. In the end, we still got an unlikely win, because when you are 10 against 11 with two minutes to go it is difficult to win the game but we are a team who keeps going no matter what happens and that is a good quality.”
Arsenal are second in the Premier League table. Burnley battle on in search of more points on the road.