Arsene Wenger blasted what he called “unacceptable” refereeing in the Premier League after Arsenal’s 3-1 loss at Manchester City and said that Raheem Sterling “dives well” after the forward won a penalty.
Arsenal were outplayed by City at the Etihad but had clawed their way back into the game when substitute Alexandre Lacazette made it 2-1 in the 65th minute — only for the hosts to score a third from an offside position.
Arsenal’s entire defence seemed to stop playing as they waited for the linesman’s flag, allowing David Silva to tee up Gabriel Jesus for an easy finish.
And Wenger, who also complained about two offside decisions in the 2-1 defeat at City last season, was fuming after the game.
“Once again the referee made the decision today, with a soft penalty and an offside goal,” he told Sky Sports. “But we are used to it when we come here. Last year we had two offside goals against us.
“I feel the referees don’t work enough, because their level drops every season at the moment. And overall it’s unacceptable what happens… At 2-1 we are in the game. And he gives a clear offside goal. And that kills the game for us.”
Kevin De Bruyne put City ahead in the 19th minute, while Sergio Aguero doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Nacho Monreal was adjudged to have bundled over Sterling.
Continuing his criticism of the officials in reference to the penalty incident, Wenger told the BBC after the match: “I believe it was no penalty. It was a provoked penalty by Sterling. We know that he dives well, he does that very well.”
Wenger opted to start with Lacazette on the bench, while Francis Coquelin played in the centre of a back three alongside Laurent Koscielny and Monreal. Koscielny was the only true centre-back in the squad as Per Mertesacker was ill and Rob Holding has a thigh strain, Wenger said.
Still, he said he wasn’t tempted to switch formations because of his injury problems.
“You can speak all night, we are used to playing in that system now for a long time and he gave us some defensive guarantees,” Wenger said. “Overall I believe that was not our basic problem.”
The loss leaves Arsenal 12 points behind leaders City — and surely out of the Premier League title race — and Wenger gave a deep sigh when asked to sum up the gap in quality between his team and Pep Guardiola’s.
“I think they are a good side, as for the rest I leave that to specialists,” he said. “You have enough on television, super people who can analyse that better than I do.”