Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admits that the somewhat excessive five minutes of added time at the end of yesterday’s 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion were tremendously stressful and that he is considering the possibility of suing referee Mike Jones.
Wenger was thrilled that his side managed to end the turbulent 2011-12 season on a high note despite a lot of drama unfolding on the final day itself.
Baggies goalkeeper Marton Fulop struggled throughout Roy Hodgson’s farewell match, gifting an early goal to Yossi Benayoun. Shane Long equalized moments later for the hosts but was clearly in an offside position, which prompted an infuriated Wenger to begin ranting at the officials on the touchline.
Graham Dorrans punished Laurent Koscielny’s poor marking moments later when he struck home the go-ahead goal for WBA. Andre Santos equalized for the visitors at the half-hour mark but a draw was never going to be enough for the Gunners.
Tottenham were in the driving seat throughout their 2-0 derby win over Fulham and had leapfrogged the Gunners by a point in the live standings up until the interval.
It took Fulop only 10 minutes into the second half to gift the lead back to Wenger’s men as he fumbled a corner clearance into the path of Koscielny, who made amends for his earlier defensive error by slotting home from close range.
For the most part, Arsenal managed to hang on to their lead comfortably but five minutes of stoppage time quickly brought in some nerves. The Baggies’ Billy Jones almost scored in the final moments of the match but Kieran Gibbs made a terrific challenge to help secure all the three points.
It was an ideal farewell for Wenger’s long-serving assistant Pat Rice and guaranteed Champions League football next season would also likely prevent skipper Robin van Persie from saying his farwell over the summer.
Nevertheless, even amid the jubilant celebrations of his side for sealing a third-place finish that was deemed extremely unlikely as late as March, Wenger took the time to criticize the referee.
The manager told Arsenal.com: “We defended crosses with resilience but as long as we did not manage a fourth goal [I was nervous]. I am still thinking of suing the referee for the five minutes of added time because my heart suffered immensely!”
Moving on to substitute Gibbs’ famous tackle, he added: “I feel he came on very well. He suffered on that flank in the second half but when he came on he won headers and won tackles to get us out of difficult situations. He deserves huge credit for that tackle.”
Winger Theo Walcott also joined in singing Gibbs’ praises: “I have to give credit to Kieran Gibbs. The boss has always says, ‘you have to be ready when you come off the bench’ and Gibbsy made probably made the most important tackle of his career so far.”