Arsene Wenger breathed a sigh of relief after Arsenal won a stoppage-time penalty against Southampton and Santi Cazorla struck a 94th-minute winner to secure a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Arsenal endured a frustrating afternoon as they drew level after Laurent Koscielny’s overhead kick cancelled out Petr Cech’s early own goal, but were unable to find the cutting edge to match their superiority.
The breakthrough came at the death after Jose Fonte was penalised for tangling with Olivier Giroud in the box, with the Portugal defender becoming the latest player to be punished for holding in the penalty area in light of stricter Premier League directives this season.
“Honestly, everyone is telling me it was a penalty, but I’ve not yet seen it again,” Wenger told reporters. “It is a relief, because we missed many chances and they had one or two opportunities having thrown everything forward.
“There was a long delay before Santi Cazorla took the penalty, he did very well to score because he felt a heavy mental weight for the team.
“He played very well, because he helped us get back into the game after we started not fluent and not pacey.”
Cazorla added that he had “no idea if it was a foul”.
“I had a lot of time to think about where to shoot my penalty, but I kept calm,” he said.
The penalty decision prompted furious protests from the Southampton players and visiting coach Claude Puel was left seething with referee Bobby Madley’s call.
“It’s very hard for my players, a big disappointment,” he said. “Both players went to play the ball, it’s very hard to take, we could have won that game.”
Fonte is not the first player to be penalised for grappling in the penalty box this season, with Ryan Shawcross and Raheem Sterling both giving away soft penalties in Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Stoke City on August 20.