Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted that his side approached their 3-1 Europa League second leg win over AC Milan very cautiously at the Emirates even as they progressed to the quarter-finals.
The hosts were a goal down courtesy of Hakan Calhanoglu’s superb goal but levelled matters in the most controversial of circumstances. Danny Welbeck appeared to have gone down too easily under the slightest contact from Ricardo Rodriguez and a penalty awarded. Welbeck duly converted the spot kick to create further parity between the sides following their 2-0 success in the first leg.
Further goals by Granit Xhaka and Welbeck put the result beyond doubt in a match Arsenal desperately needed to win in order to inspire confidence after depleted fans’ numbers witnessed at the Emirates. Welbeck’s incident became a talking point in the post-match analysis.
“We were in protective mode, subconsciously, and played a little bit with the handbrake from the start. When you’re 1-0 down you could see the response was in the team and when we pushed forwards we were dangerous. We finished in a convincing way,” he told Sky Sports.
When asked to shed some light on Welbeck’s penalty and calls that he dived, he said, “I haven’t seen it again. Do you want to accuse English players of being divers? There are two things: was it a penalty or not? I don’t know.
“The Italian players were unhappy with it. I can understand that, because I don’t really know what it was. After that, Danny took the penalty in a convincing way, and I will watch it again and give my honest feeling about it. I will give him my honest feeling about it as well (if I view it as a dive), don’t worry.”
Wenger openly stated that he wants to avoid Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals as the draw is set for Friday. He believes that the Spanish side is the favourite and poses the biggest threat to their ambitions. Madrid destroyed Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1 on aggregate and will be joined by Sporting Lisbon, RB Leipzig, CSKA Moscow, Lazio, Marseille and Salzburg in the draw.