Arsenal legend slams ‘vicious’ McArthur for Saka challenge

Date published: Tuesday 19th October 2021 11:00 - Jason Soutar

Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe competes for the ball with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur

Arsenal legend Ian Wright has condemned Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur for his “vicious” challenge on Bukayo Saka during Monday’s draw.

The points were shared at the Emirates in the London derby. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had put the hosts ahead before Christian Benteke’s second-half equaliser.

Former Gunners transfer target Odsonne Edouard had given Palace the lead, but Alexandre Lacazette’s last-gasp equaliser earned Arsenal a point.

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However, the main talking point from the match was an incident in the opening 45 minutes that forced Saka off injured at half-time.

The England star was volleyed by Eagles midfielder McArthur whilst clearing the ball. The Scotsman was given a yellow card by referee Mike Dean, but many believe it should have been a red.

Wright described the foul as “vicious” and is curious as to why VAR did not intervene.

“He [Saka] didn’t reappear because he’s [McArthur] totally volleyed him,” he told Premier League Productions after the match.

“The more you see it the worse it gets because a professional knows what’s happening. When the ball is in the air he’s seen Saka touch it, there’s no way he even looks to hesitate to stop going through with that.

“He can see Saka’s kicked the ball. That’s vicious because he’s absolutely blasted through his leg.

“How they don’t see that [VAR] is absolutely beyond me.

“It’s crazy, honestly, even without VAR you look at that, it’s a sending off.

“Peter Banks [the VAR operator] should come and justify their mistakes, why is he not here telling us why that’s not a red card? Why is it we’ve got to try to protect them? No, he should be here telling us why that’s not a sending off.

“We saw when Saka kicks the ball you pull out, he actually went with even more force. It’s almost like he’s done exactly what he wanted to do. Saka doesn’t come out for the second half because he’s injured, and I think he’s going to struggle to play on Friday [against Aston Villa].

“It’s unbelievable, the referee is right there.”

Wright also criticised Arsenal trio Ben White, Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney for their performances in the draw.

“He’s [White] got to get closer to him [Edouard] and he doesn’t do it. They’ve done brilliantly to score the goal,” he also told Premier League Productions.

Wright added: “I think Palace totally capitalised, they did their homework on Arsenal, they closed down the right people and shut down the left side. Kieran Tierney didn’t do anything.

“Pepe was very disappointing again and once they scored, Arsenal did not take it to Palace.”


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