Arsène Wenger suggested Arsenal had been guilty of complacency after a 1-1 home draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers kept his team outside the Premier League's top four and failed to capitalise on the unexpected results of Boxing Day.
The manager had seen Manchester City and Chelsea muster nothing better than draws against West Bromwich Albion and Fulham respectively but, despite dominating the play against Wolves and creating a glut of chances, Arsenal were left to count the cost of two dropped points.
Wenger was annoyed that they surrendered the position of strength given to them by Gervinho's early goal. Steven Fletcher equalised before the interval but the man of the match by some distance was Wolves' goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, who defied Arsenal time and again.
"There are going to be a lot of twists and turns [in the season] but unfortunately we could not take advantage of that," Wenger said. "That is the real frustrating thing … when you have the luck of the results [on Boxing Day] and you can take advantage of it. That is where the worrying thing is, because in the season you have to take your opportunities.
"What we have to learn is that when we are 1-0 up, in some departments, we cannot be too comfortable. I felt we lost our way a bit between 30 and 40 minutes and on that occasion we were caught. The only thing we can learn is to keep the spirit and, when you're 1-0 up, keep your level up. We were caught in a position where we can only blame ourselves. Apart from that their keeper had the game of his life. I don't know how many shots we had on goal and how many they had, but it was the kind of game that, if you play it 20 times, you win 19 and you draw one – and it was today. On the day we couldn't afford it, it was today."
Controversy vied for prominence. Arsenal might have had a penalty when Laurent Koscielny's 57th-minute cross hit Christophe Berra's arm and Wolves were furious that Nenad Milijas was given a straight red card by the referee, Stuart Attwell, for stretching one-footed into a challenge on Mikel Arteta in the 75th minute. Moments earlier Alex Song had escaped with a yellow card for reckless lunges at Fletcher then Stephen Hunt.
Mick McCarthy, who said Wolves will appeal against Milijas's dismissal, displayed the extent of his astonishment when he was asked whether the red card had been correct. "Not while I've got a hole in my bum," the Wolves manager said. "Nenad has got his foot on the ground and he makes contact with the ball. I don't think he leaves the ground. Somebody said to me that he has got his studs up but you genuinely do if you tackle with your foot sliding in.
"I think that rarefied atmosphere out there [at the Emirates] is a difficult place to work in whether you are a player, coach, manager, referee or an assistant. It's pretty pressurised out there and there was a lot of pressure on him to do it."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Ronnie Macdonald
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