Arsenal boss blasts standard of refeering in Premier League
Furious Wenger also accuses Sterling of diving following defeat to Man City
Arsene Wenger launched a furious attack on the standard of Premier League refereeing after witnessing his Arsenal side slump to a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City. The defeat effectively ends any lingering hope the Gunners had of winning their first league title in 14 years, leaving them 12 points behind City who recorded their ninth consecutive league win.
Even an under-par display from Pep Guardiola’s men was enough to see off a limited Arsenal side, although the visitors were incensed that a number of key decisions went against them. There was no controversy about Kevin De Bruyne's well-taken opener on 19 minutes but the decision of Michael Oliver to award City a second-half penalty was harsh. Nacho Monreal certainly was shoulder to shoulder with Raheem Sterling in the box when the City striker went to ground but it was one of those decisions that could have gone either way. Sergio Aguero, who became City's record goalscorer last week, made no mistake from the spot and at 2-0 it felt like game over.
Arsenal soon pulled a goal back after a slick moved ended with substitute Alexandre Lacazette blasting the ball into the City net from a tight angle. But the Gunners' hopes of a famous fight back were dashed on 74 minutes when Gabriel Jesus made it 3-1. Replays showed David Silva was offside when he released his Brazilian team-mate and that decision, coupled with the contentious penalty, was too much to bear for Wenger. "The referees don't work enough," he said. "The level drops every season. The decisions are just wrong. I believe it was no penalty. We know that Sterling dives well, he does that very well. And the third was offside. I don't want to take anything away from their quality but it happened at a moment when we were in the game."
Former England striker Alan Shearer hit back at Wenger’s criticism of Sterling on the BBC's Match of the Day saying: "It's one thing for Wenger to deflect from his team's inadequacies, it's another to question someone's integrity and be wrong. I think he owes Sterling an apology."
While Wenger has a valid point concerning City’s third goal at least, the reality is that Arsenal were only in the game going into the final quarter thanks to a couple of excellent saves from Petr Cech and some wayward finishing from the rampant league leaders. Arsenal were clearly inferior to their hosts with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez largely ineffective once again, reinforcing the theory that the sooner the pair are offloaded the better for the north London side.
For City it was a new club record for consecutive league wins in a single season and their day got even better when Chelsea beat a lacklustre Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the evening game, thanks to a second-half goal from Alvaro Morata. The victory leaves Antonio Conte’s team fourth going into the international break, on 22 points, three more than Liverpool and Arsenal who are in fifth and sixth respectively.
United's defeat means they trail their Manchester neighbours by eight points, although they remain ahead of Tottenham, courtesy of a superior goal difference. "We went through a very difficult phase with important matches against Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea without important players," said United manager Jose Mourinho when asked about the gap. "We are second - not fifth, sixth or seventh or eighth. We have several teams in a more difficult position than we have. Eight points is eight points."