Wenger hits out at Barton

BY foxsports • February 5, 2011

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger blasted Joey Barton after seeing his side squander a four-goal lead at Newcastle and leave with only a point.

The Gunners wasted an opportunity to pile pressure on Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United, despite going 3-0 up at St James' Park within 10 minutes and scoring a fourth 16 minutes later.

However, after midfielder Abou Diaby had been sent off three minutes after the restart for pushing Barton to the ground following a rugged challenge, they crumbled and shipped four goals inside 19 bewildering minutes, the last of them Cheik Tiote's stunning 87th-minute equaliser.

Wenger, who was also critical of the two penalties awarded by referee Phil Dowd, said: "It was a completely unnecessary sending-off, and I believe Barton was very lucky to stay on the pitch for the tackle on Diaby.

"It's a shame [for Diaby] because he had a great first half. Sometimes you could understand when he has a bad game, but he had an outstanding game.

"I explain that by the fact that he has been injured so many times from bad tackles that he lost a bit quickly his nerves because this boy has been out for a long time and many times.

"Certainly the tackle provoked his reaction."

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere condemned the decision-making of Dowd - and claimed inconsistent officiating is "killing the game".

Wilshere believes a later incident involving Kevin Nolan and Wojciech Szczesny, in the immediate aftermath of the first of Barton's two penalties, was just as serious and should have seen the Newcastle captain receive the same punishment as Diaby.

In a post on his official Twitter page, Wilshere wrote: "Inconsistent refereing needs to stop.its killing the game.if Diaby goes..whats the difference between that and Nolan on our keeper!?? £joke"

The criticism of the officiating could leave 19-year-old Wilshere open to Football Association action.

Former Liverpool striker Ryan Babel was fined £10,000 by the FA last month when he posted a doctored photo of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt, following a 1-0 defeat for Kenny Dalglish's team at Old Trafford.

However, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was quick to defend Barton, whose England claims he promoted once again.

Pardew said: "You have got to make a challenge. It was a proper, honest challenge - I have seen it two or three times and there's nothing wrong with it.

"He goes for the ball, he wins the ball clean. He is aggressive in the challenge, he takes a little bit of the player after he has won the ball."

Newcastle looked dead and buried after being taken apart inside the opening 10 minutes of a remarkable game.

It took Theo Walcott just 42 seconds to give the visitors the lead, and when Johan Djourou added a second goal barely two minutes later, the writing was apparently on the wall.

It was to get much worse for Newcastle, with Robin van Persie's double sending the Gunners in at the break four goals to the good.

Diaby's senseless 48th-minute dismissal sparked Newcastle into life, but few among a crowd of 51,561 inside St James' Park could have expected the drama which unfolded thereafter.

Barton's 68th-minute penalty seemed little more than a consolation, but when he converted from the spot for a second time with seven minutes remaining after Leon Best had already made it 4-2 from close range, Arsenal were crumbling.

But Newcastle saved the best for last when, with three minutes remaining, Tiote smashed a superb volley into Szczesny's bottom corner to claim a precious point.

Asked if the drama of Andy Carroll's £35million switch to Liverpool on Monday had cast a shadow over the first half, Pardew said: "You must be kidding. Yes.

"That was part of what I said at half-time: 'If you are going to feel sorry for yourself, if you are going to think, okay, it's been a tough week, lost at Fulham, lost a really good young player and take that out into that kind of arena, then you are going to be embarrassed', and they were embarrassed.

"They were a disgrace in some things that we did. The second half, though, more than made up for it.

"It's one of the most remarkable games I have ever been involved in in my life - and I am talking about Sunday mornings as well, 7-7s, I have had, everything."

Wenger admitted the psychological damage inflicted by Newcastle's fightback could have a lasting effect.

Asked about the cost, Wenger said: "Mathematically, two points; psychologically, the damage is a bit bigger tonight because everybody is, of course, very, very disappointed in the dressing room.

"But only the future will tell."