Arsene Wenger backs FA chairman’s call for action over players surrounding referees

The media at the Arsenal training grounds in London Colney

The media at the Arsenal training grounds in London Colney - Credit: Archant

Arsenal’s boss, Arsene Wenger, has supported calls for players – including his own – to show more respect to referees.

At today’s (Thursday) press conference at the club’s training grounds in London Colney, he was asked to expand upon comments made by FA chairman Greg Dyke, who wants action over players increasingly surrounding referees at matches.

Arsenal’s boss said: “He has my complete support. We have all to respect the referees and make their job as easy as possible.

“It is difficult enough today for the referees to master the situation because they are criticised a lot – I include myself in that as well. We have some improvement to make there.”

It is an about-turn for Wenger, who following the team’s 2-0 win against Monaco at the Champions League match at Stade Louis II on Tuesday (17), he described the ref as having had a ‘very poor first half’.

Two days after admitting he was “very disappointed” to see Arsenal knocked out of the Champions League on away goals by Monaco, Wenger told reporters: “We are frustrated and disappointed to go out.

“But it is not down to our performance on Tuesday night, it is down to our home performance, especially on the defensive front that we paid for.”

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Immediately after the game he said on Arsenal’s websites: “Football is not a fairytale, it is a matter of being realistic and being clinical, maybe a bit lucky as well.

“If you go out after the group stages, you have no chances after to play again [at this level], like you do in the Europa League.”

Today, he added: “I think we were a bit unlucky as well. Because if you look at the number of shots on target Monaco had over the two games, they have been very efficient in qualifying.”

He confirmed there were no major injury problems after the game.

But injured Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere will remain out for several more weeks.

However Tomas Rosicky “may be available to play in the squad” in the Premier League clash against Newcastle United on Saturday.

Wenger agreed that while Arsenal has a ‘good record’ against Newcastle, “it is always a very tight game, very difficult games …they have always a very motivated crowd and they always play well against us.”

Asked whether ‘we need an inquest’ with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, top clubs in Premier League, failing to make the last eight in the Champions League, Wenger replied: “No, I think it is the first time in 19 years. So I don’t think you can draw general conclusions from that.

“Two teams have gone out on away goals - that I think should be questioned. Because it is a rule that is outdated now and that has to be changed, and I [have fought] for a long time.

“As well, in direct knock-out it is important that you are very efficient and a bit lucky as well. And none of the teams apart from Barcelona looks to be superior.”

How should it be decided then? Wenger suggested: “It should count after extra time because the rule has been created in the ‘60s to favourite the teams to attack away from home. Since then football has changed.

“The weight of the away goal is too big today.”

Asked whether penalties would be better than away goals, Wenger replied: “I think maybe you can count it after extra time, like it is in the League cup in England.”

He also clarified comments quoted in the mainstream media about it being better for Arsenal to play in the Europa League.

Wenger explained: “It’s better [if] we are in the Champions League. It was just a little joke that I made in French to stay in Europe. It was not mis-translated.

“You cannot say anything anymore in any press conference without creating a controversial situation. That is why people don’t say anything anymore.”

To which a journalist joked: “We like you saying things Arsene.”

Asked about the current mood of the team, Wenger admitted that, like him, the Gunners were “down and disappointed” after being knocked out of the Champions League.

He is also worried about fatigue among the team-mates, saying that last Saturday’s game against West Ham had been “very physical”.

Wenger said: “We paid for a little bit of that in the second half of the Monaco game offensively, and it’s a concern; we will have to see how everybody recovers.”

• An appeal against Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini’s dismissal at Everton has been rejected. As he is serving a three-game suspension following his sending-off at Everton on Sunday, with immediate effect, he will miss the Barclays Premier League fixture against Arsenal – followed by Sunderland and Liverpool.

• Newcastle United V Arsenal, St James’ Park, Saturday March 21, 3pm