LONDON — Arsene Wenger says he’s “angry and disappointed” to come away with a 3-1 loss against Manchester United and lamented his defenders’ lack of focus at the start of Saturday’s game.
Arsenal trailed 2-0 after 11 minutes as centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi both gave the ball away sloppily, and then saw a valiant comeback effort come up short thanks to a string of stunning saves from David De Gea.
The Gunners dominated much of the match but saw De Gea equal a Premier League record by making 14 saves — including a vital double stop to deny Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez at 2-1.
Lacazette had pulled one back in the 49th minute of a highly entertaining game, but Jese Lingard clinched the win with his second goal in the 63rd.
Arsenal finished with 33 shots to United’s eight, but just couldn’t make up for their early mistakes.
“I don’t know if you’ve watched many top-level shots, but when you have 33 shots on goal in a game of that stature, it means our dominance was top class. But I’m angry and disappointed because in the end we have nothing to show for it,” Wenger told a news conference.
“I think the quality of our performance was good. We were not decisive enough. And I believe that at the back we did not start well, at all. And we put ourselves in a very difficult position. Despite that, there was enough chances to come back.”
The loss ended Arsenal’s 12-game home winning streak in the Premier League and featured the kind of sloppy defensive errors that Wenger’s team had largely cut out in recent weeks.
Mustafi had to come off injured after the second goal, when he was robbed of the ball after holding on to it for too long, but Wenger said he didn’t know what was wrong with the German.
“In this kind of game you have to be efficient. We had the chances to score, we didn’t take them. Their keeper as well had an outstanding game,” Wenger said.
“In this kind of games, you know from the start on you have to dictate your strengths in the duels from the back. And I felt that at the back our concentration was not sharp enough from the start on, and not dominant enough.
“We have produced an excellent performance, but we conceded three goals. And we had at least 10 chances, and we were not efficient enough in the box. That’s the reality.
“After that, I feel sorry for the players, because our spirit, the quality of our performance was outstanding. But at the end of the day we were not efficient enough because we didn’t start enough in areas where it matters.”
United played with 10 men for the last 15 minutes after Paul Pogba was sent off for a stamp on Hector Bellerin. However, referee Andre Marriner waved away what looked like a clear penalty when Matteo Darmian tripped Danny Welbeck in the area, while Lacazette had another appealed waved off in injury time.
Asked if he was upset about those decisions, Wenger said: “I am. I don’t know, I have to watch it again, but I thought it was [a penalty], yes.”
He then seemed to reiterate a previous claim that today’s Premier League referees aren’t good enough.
“Last night, I watched Napoli-Juventus on television, I have seen top-class referees,” he said. “If you want to analyse well, watch that, the difference between them and us, and then you’ll see.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.