Red Card Ruined Game as a Spectacle, Says Wenger as Arsenal Manager Criticises Bayern Munich Winger Arjen Robben
By Deepak Vikraman | February 20, 2014 4:00 PM EST
Arsene Wenger must be getting fed up of watching his team time and again shoot themselves in the foot - first by not taking their chances, and second by pressing that "moment of madness" button to throw away any advantage.
Mesut Ozil was the culprit on the first occasion, missing a penalty, after winning it himself, with Wojciech Szczesny then deciding to bring out his karate moves on Arjen Robben which brought on a straight red card -- the 100th under Wenger -- and a spot-kick.
The result of those Arsenal mistakes was a 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16 first leg at the Emirates, with Toni as-complete-a-midfielder-as-you-can-get Kroos and Thomas Muller scoring the goals to put the German champions firmly in control of the tie.
Wenger, while acknowledging the Szczesny foul warranted a penalty, which was incidentally missed by David Alaba, insisted the referee should have perhaps kept the red-coloured card in his pocket as it ruined the game as a spectacle, with Arsenal jumping off the blocks in spectacular fashion and giving the best club team in the world at the moment a real scare.
The red card, though, allowed Bayern to reassert their dominance, which eventually resulted in two second half goals.
"I think these rules are different in every country, basically, in Italy they send the player off for this kind of foul," Wenger said. "I think our keeper went genuinely for the ball, he touched [Arjen] Robben, who made certainly more of it, and I told him.
"Unfortunately it changed the game completely and didn't just change the game but killed the game. The game was, until then, top quality, and in the second half it was boring for neutral people. It was one-way traffic. The referee made the decision that killed the game.
"Wojciech misjudged the situation, there was no clear desire to make a foul, he misjudged the ball. After that we lost Gibbs and we lose a goalkeeper and we had to make two changes and went down to 10 men with no opportunity to make a change at all after that, because you never know if a third player could get injured.
"You sit there and you cannot change anything, you cannot bring anybody on, you run after the ball and they can bring on fresh players. It killed the game completely."
Wenger also criticised Robben for his theatrics following the challenge, something that has followed the Dutchman for pretty much his entire career.
"He has enough experience to know to make more of it. Overall I thought Bayern made a lot of every single contact, we are not used to that in England," Wenger added. "There were fouls given that usually are not given in the Premier League, but it's different rules and we have to accept it."
Ozil, after a bright start to the game, faded quickly with the missed penalty seemingly having a big effect on his performance for the rest of the match. This was probably the game that Ozil had to stand up and justify all that money Arsenal paid for him, but the mediocre spot-kick which was comfortably saved by childhood friend Manuel Neuer, just seemed to take the wind out of his sails.
"The regret I have is that we missed our penalty," Wenger said. "We needed that tonight because you could see that Bayern was on the ropes at the start of the game. We had three good chances in the first 15 minutes, we started the game well. I feel too make them more insecure we needed to score that penalty. But he missed it.
"He was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well tonight that it affected him. You could see even five or 10 minutes later on the pitch he still was shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance.
"Our usual penalty takers were not on the pitch tonight, that's why we had to decide. It was Ozil, Cazorla and Sagna. Cazorla missed as well, Ozil has missed, you think sometimes 'OK, he missed from the penalty spot before, but he will not miss again', but it can happen to anybody, you cannot reproach that."
A surprise inclusion in the starting lineup on Wednesday night was Yaya Sanogo, with Wenger deciding to give the I-have-no-experience-in-the-Champions-League youngster an opportunity to make an impact ahead of the much more seasoned Olivier Giroud, who of course has had his problems off the field recently.
"It was just a decision based on performance. When I play Giroud in every game, people reproach me from playing him in every game," the Frenchman said. "When I rest him, people reproach me for rested him.
"Tonight I rested him so you should be happy. It was not punishment, it was just a decision. Giroud is a strong character, and what happened doesn't influence his behaviour on the pitch. I just decided to give him a breather for one or two games, and to give him a chance to come back refreshed. As well I wanted to give an opportunity to Sanogo, and I think he did very well."
The last time Arsenal went to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern, they managed a 2-0 victory, and Wenger believes his side can repeat the feat, with the English Premier League side really not having too much to lose in the second leg.
"It isn't over because we will fight until the end," he added. "We knew at halftime we had to try and keep it at 0-0 and we will see what happens. It was a similar repetition to what happened last night at Man City.
"We were down to 10 men and conceded a goal in the last minute because maybe we wanted to score on the freekick and got a bit caught on the counter-attack."
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