Arsene Wenger has defended his decision to introduce Mathieu Flamini during the dying minutes of Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona.
The veteran French midfielder was sent on to replace Francis Coquelin with just eight minutes of normal time left on the clock as Arsenal trailed by a goal.
However, Flamini’s impact off the bench was a negative one as he gave away a penalty for a foul on Lionel Messi after an incomplete clearance from Per Mertesacker handed the Argentina international an opportunity in the 18-yard box.
Much of the post-game criticism from frustrated fans was leveled at the 31-year-old but Wenger insists Flamini was fit to play even though the referee’s penalty decision was not entirely clear from the dug-out.
“He warmed up [before coming on].” the Arsenal boss said
“Honestly, from the bench I didn’t see it at all. I saw that he [Flamini] went down but did he touch it [the ball] or not? I don’t know.”
Flamini, who is known for his passionate approach, recently escaped a sending off in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth after a two-footed tackle on Dan Gosling.
The former AC Milan star is set to find a new club this summer after the Gunners’ decision to not renew his current contract with the club.