Wenger buoyant for PSG clash after Saints win
And then up popped Santi Cazorla to score a controversial spot-kick in the fourth minute of added-on time after referee Bobby Madley judged Jose Fonte to have pulled down Olivier Giroud — a decision that left Southampton boss Claude Puel fuming.
In contrast his fellow Frenchman Wenger said Arsenal can go into their Champions League tie against Paris Saint Germain with renewed confidence thanks to a 2-1 win on Saturday — crisis averted for now.
Arsenal won at Watford before the international break, having previously taken only one point from their first two games of the season, and Wenger said: “Two wins together is a big help, it gives players more confidence to get to where we want to be.”
Laurent Koscielny had acrobatically cancelled out an own goal conceded by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech in attempting to save a Dusan Tadic free-kick.
And the row over the penalty might not have been so long and bitter had Shane Long converted either of the two second-half chances south coast club Southampton created in north London.
Wenger said he had not seen television replays of the incident, but his players had told him it was “100 percent a penalty”.
He added: “We could earlier maybe have had one or two penalties at corners.”
“I am angry for my players,” countered Puel, who is yet to win a competitive game after taking over as the Saints manager in pre-season.
“We played fantastic. We had the best situations to score and win the game against a very good team,” added Puel, who spent several seasons as a player under Wenger when they were at Monaco.
Madley’s stoppage-time decision was a third penalty — all successfully converted — given against Southampton this season and Puel said: “I don’t like to speak of decisions of the referee but three penalties in four games is a bit much.
“After 90 minutes of good work it is a big frustration.”
– ‘Nervous’ –
Koscielny suffered a nasty kick to the face in the build-up to the penalty but should play against PSG.
Arsenal’s other centre-halves, Gabriel and Per Mertesacker, are injured, Rob Holding is inexperienced and new signing Shkodran Mustafi is short of sharpness, according to Wenger.
The German international and Lucas Perez made their debuts following transfer window arrivals from Spain and Wenger said they both needed more matches.
“The boys are short of competition and were surprised by the pace and commitment of the Premier League. They were also nervous in the first half. They adapted more in the second half,” he said.
The long-serving Wenger, who is under pressure from Arsenal fans to deliver a league title again, was pleased with his side’s response to going behind.
“In the second half we dominated but couldn’t score. Southampton had many threats on the counter-attack, but in the end we got the penalty.
“When you lose the first home game (as Arsenal did against Liverpool at home) you cannot afford not to win the second.”
While Arsenal are now sixth in the table, Southampton are in the relegation zone with just two points from four games, but Puel refused to be downbeat.
“It is disappointing as in all of our games I think ‘we can win’. It is now important to get a result.”
Southampton’s next match is the first of their Europa League campaign, at home to Sparta Prague on Thursday.
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