Francis Coquelin red card 'a big mistake' - Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger said Francis Coquelin's red card against Tottenham left him with "big regrets" but praised his players' spirit after fighting back for a 2-2 draw in the North London derby.
Arsenal were 1-0 up after Aaron Ramsey's first-half goal, but the game changed completely when Coquelin drew a second booking for an ill-advised foul on Harry Kane in the 55th minute.
Spurs responded with two quick goals to take the lead, but Alexis Sanchez equalised with his first Premier League goal since October.
"I'm proud of the spirit the players have shown and the response. Even 2-1 down with 10 men away from home, we managed to come back with at least a point," Wenger told BT Sport.
"But we have big regrets because it looked like we were completely in control when we went down to 10 men, and that's the regret of the day. Overall it's difficult to take."
Coquelin had earned his first booking with a deliberate handball shortly before the half-hour mark, and Wenger said he had warned the holding midfielder at the break.
"He made a mistake and he knows he made a big mistake," Wenger told his postmatch news conference. "At half-time we warned him as well and it was a mistake. He wanted to do well and mistimed his tackle and got sent off."
Asked if he was let down by Coquelin, Wenger said: "No. 'Let down' is a big word. He made a mistake and he has to quickly learn from that because at a top level it is full commitment and 100 percent in all the duels in a controlled way."
The Arsenal boss also criticised referee Michael Oliver for not giving Eric Dier a second booking later when he pulled on Olivier Giroud's shirt to stop an Arsenal attack.
"I can complain that Dier was not sent off. I couldn't understand that," Wenger said. "I think the referee should come into the press room after the game as well. We are questioned, they should be questioned as well. Then he could give you an answer."
The result leaves Arsenal still three points behind Tottenham and five behind leaders Leicester ahead of their game against Watford, but it halted a three-game losing streak in all competitions, and prevented a fourth consecutive defeat for the first time since 2002.
Wenger said his team responded well to the criticism they have faced after the league losses to Manchester United and Swansea.
"Personally I never questioned the character of this team, but when you don't win the games and you lose you have to accept that and respond on the pitch," Wenger said. "That's all you can do and I think we did that today."
Centre-back Per Mertesacker also criticised Coquelin for the challenge, saying the midfielder needed to show better judgment.
"I think we need to be more disciplined in those occasions. There was no danger, he was at the sideline as well," the German said. "It took us 15 minutes to cope with that, being one man down, but after we played fantastically and could have scored a third one I think."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.