With Arsenal’s place in the FA Cup semi-finals secured, Arsène Wenger insisted his team had been “outstanding” during the 5-1 home defeat by Bayern Munich last Tuesday, again blaming the referee for “killing” his team.
Arsenal eased past Lincoln City at the Emirates with a few gears to spare on Saturday afternoon. But rather than styling victory as a return to form Wenger was adamant his team had simply carried on their fine performance in the midweek thrashing that ended their Champions League campaign.
“We played an outstanding game against Bayern Munich but our game was killed by the referee,” Wenger said, his team having swamped a gallant Lincoln during a second half in which they scored four goals. “I’ve watched this game three times and our game was killed by the referee. ”
“The first defeat in Bayern I accept, but the last one against Bayern when you are down to 10 men against a team of that quality and you then concede a penalty, it is not a football game any more. The players didn’t let me down, or themselves or the club. It was an outstanding performance as long as we were 11 versus 11.”
There were words of praise too for Arsenal’s National League opponents at the Emirates who produced an excellent, disciplined display in the opening 40 minutes, but were picked apart as Arsenal began to pass and move with more fluency. “It was difficult, you could see in the first half they had a very direct game but they had clarity about what they wanted to do and they did that very well. Overall it was important for us not to make a mistake. They had a big crowd behind them as well – they had a chance.”
Lincoln’s likable, hugely talkative manager Danny Cowley was left to rue Petr Cech’s fine save from Nathan Arnold in the first half (“that goes in in the National League”) but was visibly moved by his team’s achievement in playing at this late stage of the competition. “We tried to press hard from restarts, we knew we couldn’t press them all game, they’re too good at possession,” he said.
“The second half it felt like he’d brought 15 players, it felt like the clock had stopped. That was one hell of a long 45 minutes for us.”
There was support also from Cowley for Wenger at the end of a difficult week. He said: “People criticise Arsène Wenger but anyone who really knows football, you see the way those players move, how they understand space, and that comes from good coaching. Any manager who has stood the test of time as long as Arsène Wenger has deserves complete and utter respect as far as I’m concerned.”
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