Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: Ignore Pep Guardiola’s ‘extra protection’ plea

james olley
Silverware: Wenger and Guardiola will meet in Sunday's EFL Cup final: Getty Images

Arsene Wenger has rejected Pep Guardiola’s claim Manchester City’s players require additional protection from referees.

City sent a letter to referees’ chief Mike Riley earlier this month complaining about insufficient punishment for a series of bad tackles and called for a rule change allowing yellow cards to be retrospectively upgraded to reds upon review.

Guardiola believes several of his players have been targeted by opponents in recent matches – among them, Leroy Sane was injured after a challenge by Cardiff midfielder Joe Bennett while Crystal Palace’s Jason Puncheon was fortunate not to be sent off for a dangerous lunge on Kevin De Bruyne – as a result of their stunning form which leaves City fighting for silverware on three fronts this season.

After a shock FA Cup exit at Wigan on Monday night, the first of those trophies could come in Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final against Arsenal. Referee Craig Pawson will take charge and Wenger has urged the officials to “respect the rulebook” rather than listen to Guardiola’s pleas, despite the Premier League granting City a meeting at a later date to discuss their concerns.

“Extra protection? I don't know what it means,” Wenger told Standard Sport. “Protection yes, but we just want the referees to respect the rule book, It is all in the rules, we don't need any extra protection. You want the referees to make the right decision, that's all.

“[Pep] is maybe concerned by one or two situations where his players were tackled against Wigan on Monday night, which I can understand. But you don't want extra protection, you want protection and that is just by the referee making the right decisions in the situations.”

Aaron Ramsey faces a late fitness test on a groin problem but he is expected to return alongside Mesut Ozil, who missed last night’s Europa League defeat to Ostersund through illness.

The Gunners progressed to the last 16 with a 4-2 aggregate victory but they did so with a thoroughly disappointing performance in front of a half-empty Emirates Stadium, losing 2-1 on the night as Hosam Aiesh and Ken Sema struck with only Sead Kolasinac replying for the hosts.

“Overall, I must say that having the cup final and having won 3-0 last week, subconsciously we were not at the focused level that is needed against any team,” said Wenger. “We played against a good side. Having said that, we would have had to concede four goals to go out last night and I still believed, even during the game, that we would respond at some stage and not go out.”

Jack Wilshere came in for individual criticism from former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane, who told ITV in his role as a pundit that “I always think, when Wilshere’s your captain, to me, probably the most overrated player on the planet.”

Wenger said in response: “Personally I rate Jack very highly. After that, you can have opinions. Jack was in a team last night who didn’t perform well so it was not easy for him as well. Was it one of his best performances last night? Certainly not. Roy Keane knows that can happen to everybody.”