Arsene Wenger: Arjen Robben conned the referee
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger accuses Arjen Robben of conning the referee to win decisive penalty which swings Champions League tie in Bayern Munich's direction
Arsène Wenger accused Arjen Robben of diving to get goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sent-off and kill Arsenal’s Champions League hopes against Bayern Munich.
Boosted by their man advantage, Bayern secured a 2-0 first-leg victory at the Emirates thanks to second-half goals from Toni Kroos and substitute Thomas Müller.
Arsenal manager Wenger confirmed he made a diving motion at Robben and Szczesny appeared to make an obscene gesture as he headed down the tunnel after being shown a red card by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli.
Bayern defender David Alaba missed the resulting penalty after Mesut Özil had seen an early spot kick saved by Manuel Neuer.
“These rules are different in every country and in Italy you get sent off for these kinds of fouls,” said Wenger. “Our keeper went genuinely for the ball, he touched Robben and he made certainly more of it. I told him after.
“Unfortunately, it changed completely the game, it killed the game. Because up until then it was top quality, but in the second half I think it was boring for neutral people. It was one-way traffic and the referee made a decision that killed the game.”
Asked if he made his displeasure clear to Robben by making a diving motion, Wenger replied: “Yes. He has enough experience to know to make more of it. Overall, I felt Bayern made more of every single contact and we are not used to it in England. The fouls that were given are not given in the Premier League. But we have to get used to it and accept it. I am not a good enough referee to say why he gave the red card. The regret I have is that it is a decision that he made. Wojciech misjudged the situation and there was no clear desire to make a foul.
“After that we had lost [Kieran] Gibbs and we lost a goalkeeper. We made two changes and were down to 10 men. We had no opportunity to change after that because you cannot bring anyone on in case anyone gets injured. It killed the game.”
On Szczesny’s obscene gesture, Wenger added: “I didn’t see it.”
Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich’s manager, rejected Wenger’s criticism by saying: “You could see on TV it was a penalty. The referee decided penalty and he was the last man so it was a red card. The rules say red card, it’s a penalty. It’s a question for [Sepp] Blatter and [Michel] Platini, it’s not my business. The rules are the same for everyone.”
Özil failed to score a penalty against Marseille in the Champions League this season and Wenger admitted that his latest spot-kick failure against Bayern affected Arsenal’s record signing.
“Mesut missed a penalty with his style of play,” said Wenger. “What can I say? He missed his penalty. I prefer people who run properly at the ball.
“We needed that tonight. You could see tonight Bayern were on the ropes. We had three good chances in the first 15 minutes. And I feel to make them more insecure we needed to score that penalty tonight but he missed it.”
Asked if Özil’s head dropped, Wenger added: “Yes, 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 he was still shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance.
“The usual penalty takers were not on the pitch. It was between Özil, [Santi] Cazorla and [Bacary] Sagna and Cazorla has missed as well. Sometimes you think: ‘He will not miss another one’. It can happen to everybody and you cannot reproach that.
“You are always concerned about the confidence of your players because that is your petrol in the team – it is what gives them the courage and desire to play. In our job you have to deal with that.”
Wenger produced a shock in his team selection by handing rookie striker Yaya Sanogo only his second Arsenal start, ahead of Olivier Giroud. But Wenger denied the decision had anything to do with the fact Giroud has been forced to apologise for having a model in his hotel room ahead of a recent Premier League game.
“It was just a decision based on performance,” said Wenger. “When I play Giroud every game, people reproach me for playing him every game. When I rest him, people reproach me for resting him. I rested him tonight so you should be happy.
“It was not punishment. It was just a decision tonight because of recent games. Giroud is a strong character and what happened hasn’t influenced his behaviour on the pitch. It is just I 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 thought he did very well.”
Arsenal travel to Munich for the second leg on March 11 and Wenger vowed his team will not give the tie up by saying: “It isn’t over because we will fight until the end.”