LONDON — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has refused to back down from his recent criticism of Premier League referees.
Wenger also claimed Eden Hazard should have been booked for a dive in the incident that saw Chelsea awarded a penalty in their 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
The manager has hit out at what he perceives to be falling standards in Premier League refereeing and said he was “shocked” to be charged by the Football Association over an alleged confrontation with Mike Dean following Sunday’s draw at West Brom.
Wenger was incensed by a late penalty decision in that game and then called Chelsea’s penalty at the Emirates “farcical.”
He has been asked by the FA to provide observations about those comments.
But speaking at a news conference ahead of the FA Cup match against Nottingham Forest, he said: “I maintain what I said in the press conference 100 percent, and I have nothing to change in that.
“I’m in England for 21 years, I try to serve this game with honesty and integrity and when I have something to say I will say it. On that front, nothing will change. Never.
“I think it was a yellow card for Hazard, 100 percent. But I have a right to have my opinion and I respect everybody’s opinion.”
Wenger also admitted that Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere may have dived in a second-half incident that some pundits felt warranted a second yellow card for the midfielder.
“Yes, maybe he did,” he said. “But why should that change my opinion on the penalty? Nothing to do with it. Every situation is different.”
Wenger said he had not requested a personal FA hearing to plead his case after being charged, having said after the Chelsea game that he would contest it.
However, he did not confirm on Friday whether he would contest the charge or admit it in order to get a reduced touchline ban.
“At the moment, I’m focused on football,” he said. “If you imagine that I’m 21 years in the game, and what I’ve seen and heard in the corridors from people, you can quite understand that I’m surprised and shocked by having been charged.”
The Arsenal manager said he had the right to demand a higher standard of refereeing after having led calls for Premier League officials to become full-time.
“We can talk and talk,” he said. “At the end of the day, we always spend time on talking about things that are not really important in the game.
“What we want is to see big football games, we have big players on the football pitch, and you want them to be refereed by top-quality people.
“And I think I contributed a lot to give referees a great opportunity to be at their best because I had a huge influence on the fact that they became professional.
“I believe I had more of a positive influence on that, and that’s why I can as well be demanding. That’s what I want from them is to be at their top. And I’m quite surprised that that is shocking.”
An FA touchline ban could see Wenger miss both Sunday’s FA Cup game and the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Chelsea on Wednesday.
But having been invited to his former Monaco player George Weah’s presidential inauguration in Liberia, he said: “Maybe if I’m suspended I will have time to go.”