Arsene Wenger challenged the Norwegian referee in tonight's Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern Munich to give his team a “fair chance”, with the Arsenal manager claiming his side had been the victim of too many dismissals on critical European nights.
Wenger stopped short of saying that Svein Oddmar Moen was unsuited to refereeing two leading European clubs given the relatively modest standard of football in his domestic league but he did add that his club had lost players to red cards in “special circumstances” over the years.
With Arsenal trailing 2-0 from the home leg at the Emirates, Wenger’s players will have to pull off a turnaround that is unprecedented in the 22-year history of the modern Champions League and overturn a two goal home deficit. Unbeaten in the Bundesliga this season, and beaten only once in all competitions, Bayern have scored 24 goals in their last five league games alone.
The Arsenal manager picked out the red card for Robin Van Persie at the Nou Camp in 2011 when the club’s former captain was given a second yellow card for kicking the ball away after the referee’s whistle. Arsenal also lost goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to a red card early in the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona.
Wenger said: “Manchester City played with ten men [in their first leg tie], we played with ten men. Incidentally, we played now a few times with ten men in Europe and under always very special circumstances. In the Champions League final, now against Bayern, at Barcelona when we were in a position to qualify. It was a second yellow card.
“It's the only time that I've seen that since watching European football ... when Van Persie was sent off, so I hope [against Bayern] we will get a fair chance to play with 11 v 11 until the end.
Asked whether a referee from a league outside the European elite was suitable to take charge of the game – a charge levelled against the Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson by Manuel Pellegrini – Wenger said that experience of officiating top players helped.
Wenger said: “What you want is a good referee. I think the closer they are to a tough league, the more chances they have to detect the tricks that can decide a game. But that’s the same for Bayern.”
He added: “What I mean is sometimes when you come from a league that is a less pacey league … I don’t know the referee. Honestly, I never look at the referee before the game. I never have any preconceived ideas.
“Sometimes when the referees have a big experience it helps them to get out of tricky situations. I think you do not want players to stay on the pitch who deserve to be sent off but you do not as well ... the interests of the game to be killed for reasons that are a bit tricky. To find that kind of balance, the experience of the referees is important.”
The Arsenal manager said that Kieran Gibbs would miss the game with a calf injury and that there was a “good possibility” that Thomas Vermaelen would, once again, deputise at left-back. Yaya Sanogo is also out the squad. Laurent Koscielny comes back in and the 18-year-old Isaac Hayden has also travelled with the squad.
Wenger called upon his team to repeat some of their greatest nights away in Europe, mentioning the 5-1 victory over Inter Milan in 2003. Not quite an accurate comparison with Bayern given that Inter team finished fourth in Serie A and 23 points behind the eventual champions. Even Arsenal’s best nights in Europe – the 1-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in 2006, the 2-0 win over Milan in San Siro a year later – would pale in comparison with a win over the reigning European champions in Munich.
Wenger said: “Come back from a 2-0 defeat? Look the statistics are against us but we have won 5-1 at Inter Milan and I would say we have won everywhere in Europe. If we lead 1-0, for example, it makes the game or result absolutely possible. That is what we will of course try to do. We scored two goals in the last five minutes against Everton so we don’t have to be nervous. We can be patient. Just have to focus on the quality of our game.”
Bayern’s coach Pep Guardiola said that his team would set out to win the game saying “it doesn’t matter what we did in the first game - we have to win”. He added: “When I analyse Arsenal and the first game, we saw the quality of [Santi] Cazorla, we saw what happened until the penalty [Mesut] Ozil missed, what happened in the last nine minutes they were the nine minutes in this season when the opponent was better against us. They remain a good club, a good team.”