Defensive frailties come to the fore

Stoke's Jese Rodriguez slotting home the 47th-minute winner after a rapid counter-attack. Arsenal next play Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday with question marks over their rearguard.
Stoke's Jese Rodriguez slotting home the 47th-minute winner after a rapid counter-attack. Arsenal next play Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday with question marks over their rearguard.PHOTO: REUTERS

Wenger rails at contentious decisions that led to Stoke loss, but admits Arsenal were sloppy

LONDON • Arsene Wenger believes his side do not receive their fair share of penalty decisions, a view he claimed was demonstrated in their 1-0 Premier League defeat by Stoke City on Saturday.

The Arsenal manager was left beaten by an early second-half goal from Stoke's new Spanish forward Jese Rodriguez, signed on loan this week from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and whose training had been curtailed by his newborn son requiring a medical procedure.

But, while accepting that his side had not performed well, the veteran French manager was also left fuming by two failed penalty appeals - for a handball by Kurt Zouma and a foul by Mame Diouf.

"We don't get penalties, we know that," said Wenger. "Look at the statistics. We had the highest penalties against us at home by a mile and the lowest number for us."

To add to the manager's bad mood, he also saw a second-half "equaliser" by record signing French striker Alexandre Lacazette ruled out for offside - a decision by referee Andre Marriner which television replays suggested had been correct by a matter of millimetres.

"I watched it, it's not offside at all," said Wenger. "Even his foot was not offside but we have to swallow that. We should have scored and it's just another detail that didn't go our way."

Among many disappointing Arsenal performances, German international playmaker Mesut Ozil was particularly underwhelming, with television pundits singling him out for special attention, although Wenger would not criticise him.

"I think he did try," said Wenger. "It is difficult to single anybody out. Personally, I don't think he deserved it."

Wenger also confirmed that Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez, who trained with the team in London on Friday, will be available for their next game, Sunday's visit to Liverpool, after being linked with a potential move away from the club to Manchester City.

The manager also said he is not panicking just yet despite his team also having conceded three goals in the opening weekend victory over Leicester.

"Last week, we conceded two goals from corners," he said. "They (Leicester) only had three shots on goal so I don't think defended so badly - on set-pieces, yes.

"Today, the goal we conceded we were 100 per cent guilty but it was the kind of night when, not only we didn't score, but stupid mistakes - (Granit Xhaka) first by losing the ball centrally and then by defending poorly - cost us."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes Rodriguez will set the Premier League alight after his debut goal came on the back of a solitary training session with his new club.

"He's an elite player," said Hughes.

"A player that can change games. We're glad he's in our colours because he's going to light up the Premier League."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Defensive frailties come to the fore'. Print Edition | Subscribe