Wenger sees red as Gibson goes unpunished in stalemate that leaves top four race wide open

Frank Dalleres
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ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger insisted Everton midfielder Darron Gibson should have been sent off in last night’s stalemate, but refused to criticise the Toffees’ physical approach after his team dropped vital points in the race for the top four.

Striker Olivier Giroud blazed the home side’s clearest opening over the bar, while Ross Barkley whipped a rising drive narrowly wide in a tooth-and-nail scrap that did little for either club’s Champions League qualification hopes.

Both Wenger and Everton boss David Moyes refused to comment, with knowing smiles, on a half-time tunnel fracas, sparked by visiting winger Kevin Mirallas squirting water at Gunners midfielder Jack Wilshere.

The Frenchman did, however, air his belief that Gibson deserved a red card for body-checking Theo Walcott moments after being booked, but pointed the finger of blame at referee Neil Swarbrick rather than Moyes’s side.

“He should have already had a yellow card before the first one,” Wenger said of Gibson.

“You have to respect Everton for the effort they put in. They decided to make it very physical to disturb our game and sometimes went a little bit over the edge, but I don’t blame them for that.”

Asked whether the officials had protected his team enough, he added: “Protecting is a big word; just to make the right decisions.”

Moyes, who admitted he would settle for fifth place and a Europa League spot come the end of the season, was unrepentant about his side’s approach, arguing that it had improved the atmosphere.

“I’ve been to the Emirates and it’s been quiet before,” he said.

“I thought Everton got the crowd going because we were committed and were out to win the game.

“Not every tackle can be a foul. I was actually yawning the number of times we had to kick the ball out of play to get people picked back up.”

Chelsea could overtake Arsenal and move up to third in the Premier League table tonight with a win at west London neighbours Fulham.

But the Gunners remain masters of their own top four destiny as the Blues and Tottenham – both two points behind – are still to face each other in the penultimate week of the season.

Wenger depicted it as two points dropped, however, and criticised power-over-technique finishing. Giroud was guilty 10 minutes from time, sidestepping defender Phil Jagielka inside the box only to lean back and lash high into the stands.

Moments later Giroud could have made amends, but Sylvain Distin and the diligent Seamus Coleman beat him to substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s low cross with the net unguarded.