Wenger admits: I didn't get it right

Arsene Wenger is adamant that Olivier Giroud (above) should not have been red-carded against Dinamo Zagreb. While three of the four EPL teams lost their opening Euro group games, Wenger says it is still early days.
Arsene Wenger is adamant that Olivier Giroud (above) should not have been red-carded against Dinamo Zagreb. While three of the four EPL teams lost their opening Euro group games, Wenger says it is still early days.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Changes in starting XI backfire as 10-man Gunners suffer upset against Dinamo Zagreb

ZAGREB • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted that he got it wrong following his team's shock 1-2 defeat to European minnows Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Given a gruelling schedule of six games in 18 days, the Frenchman made six changes to the side who beat Stoke City 2-0 in the Premier League over the weekend.

David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud all started, with Giroud marking his recall with a red card.

Arteta had not started a game since last November and it showed.

When the hosts threatened to break, it was Debuchy and Arteta they targeted to great effect.

  • 6

    Changes made by Arsene Wenger to the side who beat Stoke City 2-0 on Saturday, considering Arsenal must pack in six games in just 18 days

  • 15

    Dinamo Zagreb's winless streak of group stage games before their success over Arsenal

However, Wenger directed the blame for the defeat on referee Ovidiu Hategan although he took some of the responsibility.

"You know that when you don't win the game, you have to look at yourself and think, 'I didn't get it right'," said Wenger.

"I personally don't believe that the players who came in had a bad game. It just didn't work."

Dinamo had failed to win in 15 previous outings at this stage of Europe's top club competition, but took the lead on 24 minutes when Oxlade-Chamberlain scored an own goal.

The Gunners' troubles were compounded with Giroud dismissed for a second yellow card just before half-time.

Fernandes added a second for Dinamo just before the hour and although substitute Theo Walcott pulled one back, the Croatian side held on.

Wenger acknowledged that Giroud was to blame for the first booking - for what seemed to be persistent dissent.

But he was far less conciliatory when it came to the second, suggesting that the referee treated the France striker more stringently than he had many Dinamo players.

"The sending-off is very harsh," Wenger said.

"The second, he is unlucky to touch the guy.

"I don't think he saw him.

"I think at that moment, it was not a second yellow. It has to be on purpose, a foul on purpose.

"I do not understand the referee. (If that was a yellow card), he should have given many (more)."

What is less debatable is that all of a sudden, what was supposed to be serene progress to the knockout rounds once more will be substantially more exacting for Arsenal.

Group F was meant to be a straight shootout between the Gunners and Bayern Munich.

But the Croatian champions have blown that cosy picture apart.

Dinamo manager Zoran Mamic thanked his compatriot and West Ham manager Slaven Bilic for helping them get "one of the most famous results in our history".

Bilic, whose side beat Arsenal 2-0 in the Premier League's opening round, passed on valuable advice.

"We scouted Arsenal well and we found information given to us by Bilic and his assistant Nikola Jurcevic very useful," Mamic told the reporters. "But my players did a great job too."

He even hinted that there is a defined way in which to beat Wenger's team.

"We realised it was very important to close the middle of the field, to stop the fast passes, and we succeeded in doing that," he added.

"This is not new. We have already seen other teams who beat Arsenal use the same tactics."

But Wenger warned that it was too early to write off Arsenal or the other English teams who lost their opening group games.

Manchester City fell at home to Juventus on Tuesday while Manchester United got nothing from their clash at PSV Eindhoven.

"It's the first game," he said. "Let's see where we stand after six games."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Wenger admits: I didn't get it right'. Print Edition | Subscribe