Arsène Wenger said he does not want to judge the judges after serving the first game of a four-match touchline ban at Southampton and that his critics would rather he was “in jail somewhere without any heating”. The Arsenal manager was charged with misconduct by the Football Association after an altercation with the fourth official, Anthony Taylor, at Burnley on 22 January.
Wenger was given the touchline ban after accepting the charge and was also fined £25,000. Wenger was accused of using “abusive and/or insulting words” towards Taylor after the referee Jon Moss’s decision to award Burnley a stoppage-time penalty. It is alleged the Arsenal manager called Moss a cheat, which he denies. Having been dismissed from the technical area, Wenger then tried to push Taylor out of the way.
The former Premier League referee Graham Poll said Wenger had “got off lightly” with a four-match touchline ban after avoiding a stadium ban. Wenger watched from the directors’ box at St Mary’s as his team extended their unbeaten run to seven matches and he communicated with his assistant, Steve Bould, and his first-team coaches through an earpiece.
“When you score goals it looks good from everywhere,” Wenger said. “It was good to watch, we had a good game, a good dynamic and we were always very dangerous against a young Southampton team.”
Of his touchline ban, he added: “I do not want to judge the judges. I got a sentence and I decided not to appeal to just get this behind me. For those who don’t like me, any sentence will be too lenient. They would like to put me in jail somewhere without any heating in the middle of winter – and that would still be lenient.”
Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick against his former club and Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal eased into the FA Cup fifth round with a 5-0 victory. Wenger believes he has more attacking options at his disposal than previously; he had the luxury of naming Alexis Sánchez among his substitutes at St Mary’s, with Olivier Giroud unavailable through illness.
“You look at [Lucas] Pérez and Walcott and Danny Welbeck, and I have Sánchez on the bench as well, that exceptional quality,” Wenger said. “For a long time we have not had that offensive quality available. The problem will now be to find the right combination and use them well in games, without destroying the balance of the team.”
Arsenal return to Premier League action at home to Watford on Tuesday, while Claude Puel’s Southampton travel to Swansea City. Puel is again expected to be without his captain, Virgil van Dijk, because of an ankle injury he sustained against Leicester City.
The extent of Van Dijk’s injury is expected to be known over the next 48 hours and the Southampton manager said he is “studying possibilities” to bolster his injury-hit squad before Tuesday’s transfer deadline. “We are waiting for the diagnosis and after we will decide and find a good answer,” Puel said.