Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has expressed his frustration with referee Neil Swarbrick's leniency during Tuesday night’s clash with Everton.
Arsenal have put pressure on themselves for a top four finish after drawing with Everton in the 0-0 stalemate on Tuesday night.
The Gunners could have gone four points clear of rivals Tottenham, but Everton’s physicality managed to disrupt the hosts’ fluency and the game ended with no goals scored. Consequently, Wenger’s team are now just two points clear of their top-four rivals, while Tottenham have a game in hand and Chelsea two games in hand.
The Emirates outfit struggled against an Everton side that was determined to play a physical game in order to upset the flowing Arsenal style. But Wenger insists that there were a few incidents where the Toffees took it too far and referee Swarbrick failed to reprimand them.
"The game was basically down to physical intensity, it was unbelievable from the first to the last minute," Wenger told reporters. "The referee let a lot go unpunished. I think Darron Gibson could have been sent off. He got away with a few tonight.
"It was a game of huge intensity, they decided to make it physical to disturb our game.
"I don't blame Everton for that. To say we needed protecting is a big word, we just want the referee to make the right decisions.
"I don't think the referee dealt well with the intimidating physical challenges in the first half."
Gibson was indeed lucky to get away with a dubious challenge on Theo Walcott. He had received a yellow card for a foul on Jack Wilshere, and when he barged into Walcott with no attempt to play the ball, Swarbrick failed to show him a second yellow, which left Wenger fuming on the touchline.
Swarbrick continued the somewhat inconsistent spell when he booked Steven Pienaar for a bad challenge on Walcott a few minutes later – arguably a less severe foul than the one he left unpunished, and for which Gibson should have been sent off.
Both teams had good chances to score throughout the game but overall it was a bit scrappy, and in the end David Moyes' physical strategy paid off and Everton succeeded in stifling the frustrated Arsenal side.
Moyes was unrepentant for his team’s cruder challenges and said his team’s defending was world class.
"We weren't going to let Arsenal stroke the ball around with 500 passes, we were committed and made some tackles," Moyes said. "Believe it or not that's allowed in football. Some of our defending was top-class."
Everton remain in sixth place, two points behind Chelsea, who have two games more to play. Moyes will be hoping for a Europa League spot as Everton's chances of securing Champions League football are highly unlikely after the Emirates Stadium draw.
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