• Premier League

Wenger: Stoke penalty 'nice gift' from ref

ESPN staff
March 1, 2014
Arsene Wenger defended his decision not to start Mesut Ozil © Getty Images

Arsene Wenger has called referee Michael Jones' decision to award Stoke a penalty in their 1-0 win over Arsenal "a nice gift" as his side slipped four points off the title pace.

Jon Walters struck from the spot after Laurent Koscielny had been adjudged to have handled the ball in the box late in the second half.

"It was a nice gift from the referee," Wenger told reporters. "Koscielny is one yard away. He has no time. How can he take his hand away? He has no chance.

"It was a generous penalty. I can show you 10 videos of that situation when a penalty isn't given."

Wenger also admitted the defeat was a "massive setback" in Arsenal's title bid, with Chelsea taking full advantage of the slip up with a 3-1 win at Fulham.

"To win a title - when you're expected to perform, you have to perform. It's as simple as that," Wenger added.

"It is not a slight worry, it is a massive setback. We didn't create enough and they defended very well. Our performance today wasn't good enough.

"We are unlucky to lose this game, but our offensive game was poor."

Wenger also defended his decision to leave Mesut Ozil on the bench until the 66th minute, when he replaced Lukas Podolski.

Ozil was left out of the squad for Arsenal's home win over Sunderland last weekend, following his crucial penalty miss in the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich amid criticism of his recent performances.

"He [Ozil] was fit to start," said Wenger. "He has played many, many games, and he came on at the right moment I think."

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