Loss a big worry, says Wenger
ARSENE Wenger has conceded that Arsenal's stuttering Premier League title bid suffered a "major setback" after they lost ground at the top with a shock 1-0 defeat at Stoke.
Jon Walters' second-half penalty handed Stoke a famous win at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday and left the Gunners four points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, who beat Fulham 3-1, thanks to a hat-trick from Germany international Andre Schuerrle.
Liverpool jumped into second spot with a 3-0 win at Southampton.
Arsenal, now in third place, have won just once in their last eight trips to Stoke, and Wenger admitted it was the worst possible start to what he had branded a season-defining month.
"It is not slightly worrying, it is a big worry for us to lose a game like that. It's a massive setback," he said.
"In a game like that, we didn't produce the performance we wanted. To win a title, when you are expected to perform, you have to perform. It's as simple as that."
The game had the same feisty edge so memorable from these teams' recent meetings.
Glenn Whelan and Charlie Adam both escaped without sanction from referee Mike Jones, despite controversial challenges on Olivier Giroud, much to the French striker's frustration.
Wenger said: "I have nothing to say about that. I am long enough in the game to make my own judgment."
Potters boss Mark Hughes said of the incidents: "It would be a shame if people highlight that, as it wasn't that type of game."
However, the Arsenal manager was unimpressed by Jones' decision to point to the spot after adjudging Laurent Koscielny handled inside the penalty area as Walters attempted to lift the ball over him.
"We conceded a goal that was a nice gift from the referee, but that can happen," Wenger added. "He was one yard (about 90cm) away. How could he take his hand away in time? There was no intention at all."
Wenger's side could have few complaints with the outcome, however, after serving up a sub-standard display that left big question marks hanging over their seemingly faltering title challenge.
"Our offensive game was poor, considering our standards," Wenger conceded. "You have to give credit to Stoke, they defended well, with resilience."
The win continued Stoke's excellent record at home against the league's big sides as they made the Gunners their latest scalp, having previously beaten Manchester United and Chelsea, and drawn with Manchester City this season.