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English Premiership

Wenger fumes at Wigan keeper

LONDON, England, April 17 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi of ‘disrespectful’ time-wasting during his side’s unexpected 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night.

Wenger was often an animated figure on the touchline during the game as Al-Habsi repeatedly delayed goal-kicks. The Oman international was booked in the final minute by referee Andre Marriner but Wenger was convinced that should have occurred much earlier.

“I told the fourth official ‘you know what – he will do it the whole game’ because he did it after 10 minutes and with three minutes to go he gets a yellow card,” the Frenchman said.

“It’s disrespectful, frankly, to people who pay big money to watch a game. We didn’t play well and we are sorry but the referee didn’t act on that and it is not right.

“I do not want to look for excuses, I congratulate Wigan, who did well, but the referee had to give him a yellow card the second time he did it. Then, after you will play football.

“I can understand why they do it but it is down to the referee not to allow it.”

Arsenal captain Robin van Persie also lost his temper with Wigan, refusing to shake the hand of his counterpart Gary Caldwell after the final whistle.

Two goals within 90 seconds in the first eight minutes had given the visitors an unexpected platform for success, with Franco Di Santo and Jordi Gomez the scorers.

Thomas Vermaelen, the Belgium defender, headed Arsenal back into the game in the 21st minute but to equaliser was forthcoming.

“We defended horrifically on the first and the second goal as well,” said Wenger, who revealed that Jack Wilshere will not recover from an ankle injury in time to represent England in the Euro 2012 finals in June.

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“After that we had a mountain to climb. We created enough chances in the first half to go level but in the second we dropped our level. There was not enough petrol in the tank and they defended well.

“We have given a lot in the last couple of months and we were not sharp physically or mentally.”

Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, defended his side against the time wasting accusations.

“Time-wasting is an area of the game the referee has to look after,” he said. “I don’t think we won because we were time-wasting, we won because we deserved it.”

Arsenal would have gone eight points clear of Tottenham and Newcastle, the two clubs chasing them for third place in the Barclays Premier League table had they won.

The win was Wigan’s fourth in five games, with Liverpool, Stoke and, famously, Manchester United having been beaten in a sequence of results that also included a narrow defeat at Chelsea when both the London club’s goals were actually offside.

Martinez’s side are now five points clear of the relegation places and ahead of Queens Park Rangers, Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“I am so, so satisfied because that wasn’t an accident,” the Spaniard said.

“In eight days to have to play Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal is such a big task and the manner in which we coped physically and tactically means everyone can be very proud.

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“We were disappointed at half time because we hadn’t managed to keep the ball well enough. We can play a lot better than that. But in the second half we had the know how to understand what was needed. We had one v ones with the keeper and we coped with an outstanding footballing side.

“The truth is that this is a well-deserved three points and to say that speaks volumes of the performances of the players.

“We have been playing so well for a while, since February. Then there was a real turning point in our performances and the group really clicked.

“We had been playing well without getting results and we had to be very stubborn with what we wanted to do.

“But we are aware of that because we gave away so many points earlier in the season we now have four massive ‘finals’.

“We need to make sure we carry on the standard that we showed today. We have to finish as strongly as we can because 34 points is still a small amount.”

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