WOLVERHAMPTON: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta took the positives from his side’s 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday, saying David Luiz’s controversial red card for conceding a penalty on the stroke of halftime had turned the game upside down.
Arteta had every right to be scratching his head at the way his side’s seven-game unbeaten Premier League run ended.
They were comfortably the better side and leading from Nicolas Pepe’s superb opener when Luiz was adjudged to have brought down Willian Jose in the area.
Luiz was running behind the striker and any contact was purely accidental as Jose tumbled to the ground.
Ruben Neves converted the penalty and Joao Moutinho’s wonder strike after the break gave Wolves the points as Arsenal ended with nine men after keeper Bernd Leno was sent off for handball after rushing out of his penalty area.
“Well it was a big decision. If they got it right and can justify that they got it right I hold my hand up and apologise,” Arteta told reporters. “I’ve just seen the replay 10 times in five different angles and I cannot see any contact.
“I would like to see if VAR has different angles. All I am saying is that I’m sitting here and I cannot see any contact and that’s really, really frustrating because it’s a big moment.
“Of course it changed the game. You play with 10 men for 45 minutes without your central defender against this opposition of course it changes the game.”
While it was a bitter end to Arsenal’s resurgence, their display before Luiz’s dismissal was impressive with Bukayo Saka hitting the post and having a goal chalked off inside the opening 10 minutes while Pepe had another scorching effort turned against the bar by Wolves keeper Rui Patricio.
“I have to take the positives, the way the team is evolving, the way the team played against this opponent which is really difficult to attack, the amount of chances that we created,” he said. “But we leave the ground and have zero points and we’ve lost two important players.
“With nine players I saw players chasing the goalkeeper, it’s incredible and I’m so proud of them.”
For Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo it was relief after an eight-game winless run in the league — his worst run since taking them back into the top flight.
“It was a tough, tough first half and then everything changes with the penalty. The dynamic of the game changes there,” he said.
“The referee doesn’t have any other option on both situations. We’ve been in a tough moment, so it’s important.”