Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was left fuming at the decision to send off David Luiz in his side’s loss to Wolves on Tuesday night and also came to the defence of goalkeeper Bernd Leno after he followed Luiz in being dismissed at Molineux. The Gunners ended with nine men in their 2-1 loss after having led and having been the better team for much of the first half.
The Londoners deservedly led through Nicolas Pepe’s fine strike before Luiz was adjuged to have fouled Willian Jose inside the box on the cusp of half time.
The Brazilian centre-half saw red – his third in an Arsenal shirt as he gave away a penalty for the sixth time since his Gunners debut in August 2019 – and Ruben Neves emphatically found the top corner from the spot.
Joao Moutinho made it 2-1 from long range early in the second half and then with less than 20 minutes remaining, Leno was also given his marching orders.
The German goalkeeper handled the ball outside of his area as he looked to clear a long ball with Adama Traore closing him down.
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But Arteta came out in defence of both of the two players, with the Spanish boss insisting there was “no contact” between Luiz and Willian Jose for the Wolves goal.
He said: “The way we lost the game really hurts, it’s painful. I’ve just seen the replay 10 times in five different angles and I cannot see any contact [between them].
“If there is any contact it’s him [Willian Jose] with David. I don’t know if they have a different angle to what they have or you have.
“Those big decisions are like that but it’s nothing I can change at the moment. It was a big decision and if they can justify that they got it right then I will put my hands up and apologise.
“The only thing I’m saying is I’m sitting here and I cannot see any contact and it’s really frustrating because it’s a big moment in the game.
“I would like to see if VAR have got a different angle and have seen something I can’t see. I’m watching it expecting to see something but I can’t.
“Of course it changed the game. We’ve had to play half the game without David. We dominated the first half and could have been three or four goals up.
“It’s hard enough to win football games in the league without that happening. Those big decisions are like that but it’s nothing we can change at the moment.”
He added of Leno: “I imagine he makes the decision in a split of a second and naturally he tries to stop the ball, there’s nothing he can do.”
Runar Alex Runarsson came on to replace Leno for the closing stages and made several saves to keep the scoreline to 2-1.
Arsenal signed Mathew Ryan in January on loan from Brighton to offer better competition for Leno and Arteta hopes the Australian can return at the weekend.
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Leno will be absent for three matches if his ban is upheld, with fixtures against Aston Villa, Leeds United and Manchester City on the horizon in the top flight.
Arteta said of Ryan: “He had a muscular issue and in the last two days he hasn’t been able to train. Hopefully we can get him back in the next few days.”
While he added of fellow absentee left-back Kieran Tierney: “He wasn’t close at all hopefully in the next few days he feels much better.”
The Scottish defender has not played in any of the club’s last four games due to ‘discomfort in the right lower leg’.
Cedric Soares played in his position here while Bukayo Saka returned on the right wing after missing the goalless draw at Manchester United due to injury.
Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also returned after missing the last three games due to personal reasons, coming off the bench late in the second half.
Arteta added that United plan to appeal the decision to send off Luiz, saying: “When I am standing here I would say yes, let’s go straight away because we have a big chance.
“But I don’t know, we have to speak with the legal team and the club and make the decision on what’s the best thing to do.”