Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger accepts Norwich City deserved a point
Frustrated Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted Norwich ruthlessly exposed defensive frailties to undermine the Gunners' Champions League push.
City's front players and attacking midfielders harassed the hosts' overworked defence throughout a thrilling contest at the Emirates. Wenger was forced to concede the Canaries were full value for a hard-earned point on his historic 900th match at the helm.
'I feel defensively the whole team was very, very poor,' he said. 'We lost too many challenges and it is surprising because recently we were quite good.
'I felt we were not sharp in the first half and in the second half we are guilty when we were 3-2 up to give such a goal away and then even at 3-3 we have four or five chances to score. In the end it is a point, of course at half-time we are 2-1 down, but we had a great response and overall I think there was enough chances to win the game. I think defensively we made it too easy for them today and we gave too many chances.'
Wenger struggled to explain Norwich's first half dominance with the Canaries posing a constant threat to Wojciech Szczesny's goal.
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'We have to analyse the reasons why we were not sharp enough in the first half,' he said. 'There is no obvious reason because we prepared normally as we always do. Norwich played well, you have to give them credit. We were not very strong but they played well.
'It is more than frustrating because we were very poor in the first half, not switched on. The quality of our first half was absolutely not at the level we wanted to play in a deceive game like that. In the second half we did very well. We created at least 10 chances but again not only did we not take our chances, but on top of that we gave them a third goal in a situation that was absolutely unbelievable. In the end we got punished for our mistakes.'
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Wenger was incensed Arsenal's late penalty appeals were turned down when Dutch master Robin van Persie tumbled under the attentions of Kyle Naughton at the far post.
'I don't know, we have to accept the decisions of the referee, that is the only thing I can say,' he said. 'Here, the whole season we have got zero penalties. It is absolutely amazing because when you see other clubs who have 10 or 11. We know we don't get penalties here and we have put that in our head now and we have to accept it.'
Tottenham and Newcastle both failed to capitalise on two dropped points yesterday in the race for an automatic Champions League place.
Arsenal will now guarantee third behind the two Manchester clubs with victory at West Brom on the final day – but the Gunners' will be without international full-back Bacary Sagna after Wenger confirmed the 29-year-old suffered a fresh broken right leg injury.
Wenger was unhappy with Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson's role in the build up to the first half incident when he appeared to stumble over the grounded defender.
'It is a broken fibula, the same leg (that he broke in October). He was kicked on it, it has not happened alone,' said Wenger. 'When he was kicked, he has broken the leg. The guy closed him down and walked on him. I don't know if it was deliberate or not. I would have to watch it back.'
Norwich boss Paul Lambert insisted there was no malice on Johnson's part in the unfortunate incident.
'I never knew actually until after the game that had actually happened, or the comments that were coming out that Bradley Johnson had done it,' he said, speaking on Sky's Goals on Sunday show. 'There was nothing in it, that's a nothing, that. That's not the lad, he's not malicious.'
French media yesterday reported Sagna had accused Johnson of deliberately standing on his leg.
'I think he did it on purpose,' he told sports daily L'Equipe on Sunday. 'He stepped on my leg. Play continues, I get back on my feet. And when I tried to control the ball, I felt a crack, just like the first time at Tottenham.
'He stepped right where the plate was. I think the plate pressured (the bone). It's a neat break, just above the plate.'