Arsène Wenger may face an FA charge after saying Raheem Sterling “dives well” and criticising the referee, Michael Oliver, in Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat at the Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Wenger claimed City will be unstoppable if they receive similar decisions to those that allowed Sergio Agüero’s penalty and Gabriel Jesus’s goal in Arsenal’s defeat at the Etihad Stadium. In response Pep Guardiola said Arsenal defeated Burnley 1-0 last October at Turf Moor thanks to a late Laurent Koscielny goal scored with a hand.
City were leading 1-0 when Oliver awarded a penalty for Nacho Monreal’s challenge on Sterling after 50 minutes. Agüero scored and, although Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back just after the hour, Silva created Jesus’s 74th-minute strike despite being marginally offside.
The victory maintained City’s unbeaten start to the season, giving Guardiola’s team 31 points from 11 games. Yet the officiating that allowed Agüero’s penalty and Silva to continue playing left Wenger furious.
“I believe it was no penalty. We know that Raheem Sterling dives well, he does that very well,” he said. “And the third goal was offside. I am very upset because at 2-1 we were in the game. The third goal was the killer and it is by coincidence that mistakes always go for the home team, as we know.
“It is unfortunate that the game finished the way it finished. I am disappointed. You can accept it if City win in a normal way, they are a good side, but this is unacceptable. Last season we lost two offside goals and it has happened again.”
Asked who may be able to stop City, Wenger was again scathing. “It will be difficult this season, the way they have started, the quality they have, but you never know. If on top of that they have decisions at home like that, they will be unstoppable,” the Frenchman said.
“You have seen what I have seen. The fact you tell me it is an offside goal says enough. I don’t want to take anything away from the quality but it happened at a moment when we were really in the game at 2-1 and it killed the game. It is the second year. We got two offside goals here last year [in a 2-1 loss] and one this year.
“The physical level [of referees] is very good, the decisions – at 2-1 we are in the game and he gives a key offside goal, and that kills the game for us. Last year if you look as well, we conceded two offside goals. Of course, they are a top team, but that makes it even more difficult for you.”
Wenger’s claim that Sterling simulates leaves the manager open to a potential FA charge as it questions the integrity of the player.
Guardiola brushed off the comments. “No, we won,” said City’s manager. “We won in the best way and we deserved [to win] by far. The chances we created and the few chances we conceded. They tell me it was offside and I don’t like to win in that way, so it’s like this, but sometimes Arsenal win in Burnley 0-1 with a hand, so sometimes it is like this. The way we like to play, we did it really well,” he said.
Guardiola was especially pleased with City’s start to November given how poorly they fared 12 months ago. “Our main problem last season was November, we had four games, three at home and were not able to win any,” the City manager said. “Today we won and hopefully we can keep that level in the next months.
“After a Champions League game [the 4-2 win at Napoli] it is always complicated. The last nine times we play against Arsenal, we won just once. Well done, well deserved. We played better.
“In the first half, with the chances we created, we could have scored the second and third goal. 1-0, 2-0 is always complicated. We played really good and we found in the bad moments, when we were tired, that we were mentally stable. And that is why I am so pleased with the performance.”
City now have the international break and Guardiola said: “We cannot deny the last two months. We won all the games, in the Carabao Cup, in the Champions League, in the Premier League. To do it over two months is so difficult, so I am so happy.”
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