Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident his side can soon recover from another Champions League away performance to forget after seeing striker Olivier Giroud sent off in a 2-1 defeat at Dinamo Zagreb.
Dinamo made the most of their numerical advantage to record a first win in the Champions League since September 1999 as the Gunners, fielding no fewer than six changes, failed to find any sort of rhythm at the Maksimir Stadium.
Wenger, though, insists Arsenal have what it takes to kick-start what has so far been a stuttering campaign at Chelsea for Saturday’s lunchtime Barclays Premier League kick-off.
“Overall, I believe we have problems to start in every competition this season, we had problems in the Premier League and again in the Champions League tonight, but I am confident we can put that right in the next five games,” he said.
Arsenal next host Olympiacos before a double-header with Group F favorites Bayern Munich. Wenger added: “Mathematically, we can qualify without any problem if we produce our performances that we want at home.”
France forward Giroud missed a couple of decent early chances before collecting two cautions in the first half, for dissent and then tripping Daniel Ivo Pinto.
Dinamo took the lead against the run of play after 29 minutes courtesy of an own-goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when the ball bounced back off him past goalkeeper David Ospina, who had saved Josip Pivaric’s shot.
The hosts doubled their lead at the start of the second half through a powerful header by Junior Fernandes.
Despite a late goal from substitute Theo Walcott, there was to be no grandstand finale.
Wenger pulled few punches in his assessment of the Romanian official Ovidiu Hategan.
“We were not at our best, but nor was the referee,” he said.
“I believe the first goal is offside and after the sending-off is very harsh.
“The first yellow is Giroud’s fault because he protested, even if it was not a foul against him, but after that he should not have responded to the referee.
“The second yellow card, Giroud is unlucky to touch the guy, he did not see him. It was accidental completely, but it happened.
“I don’t understand the referee. It has to be on purpose, a foul on purpose. Then the referee should have given many yellows.”
Wenger, however, accepted Arsenal were overall well below the required performance.
“We have for a part to look at ourselves also, because the second goal kills our game. On the corner we were guilty not to defend it well,” he said.
“When you don’t win the game you have to look at yourself and think you haven’t got it right.
“I don’t believe the players who came in had a bad game but it didn’t work, it didn’t work.”
Dinamo Zagreb manager Zoran Mamic praised the way his side – who have never qualified for the knockout stages – went about their business.
He said: “After this we are ready for anything which might come, but are also aware of the strength of the group and cannot fall into euphoria.”
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