Arsene Wenger accused Anthony Taylor of dishonesty and twice told the fourth official to "f**k off" during the highly-charged conclusion to Arsenal's dramatic 2-1 Premier League victory over Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on 22 January, it has been claimed. The long-serving Gunners boss was eventually handed a four-match touchline ban and fined £25,000 ($31,111) by The Football Association (FA) for a bout of improper conduct that came during stoppage time.
Protesting referee Jonathan Moss' decision to award the visitors a 93rd-minute penalty after Ashley Barnes was adjudged to have been fouled by Francis Coquelin, an incensed Wenger confronted the fourth official and was promptly ordered from the technical area. Rather than retreat to the stands or the dressing room, however, he attempted to watch the remainder of the match from the tunnel. The 67-year-old then appeared to shove Taylor as he tried to get him to vacate the area.
The FA have now released the full written reasons behind their decision to hand Wenger a touchline ban at a personal hearing that took place before an independent regulatory commission on 27 January, with such a document featuring the respective accounts of both Moss and Taylor.
"Following the award of a penalty kick against his team in approx. 92nd min, Mr Wenger left his technical area to confront me in disagreement at the decision," Taylor wrote in his report. "Before he said anything I said 'think carefully before you say anything'.
"He responded by saying 'you are dishonest to your federation'. I considered this to be questioning both mine and the referee, Jon Moss's integrity and impartiality. I stated to Mr. Wenger that such a comment was not acceptable and he told me to 'f**k off' on two separate occasions."
On the controversial tunnel incident, he added: "Initially Mr Wenger wanted to return to his technical area and I had to ask him again to leave the vicinity as required. He then chose to stand at the opening of the tunnel. I again approached him and asked him to go to the dressing room area. At this point Mr Wenger pushed me twice and I had to ask the security staff present to escort Mr Wenger to the dressing room area. At the conclusion of the match Mr Wenger visited the officials changing room and apologised to myself and Mr Moss for his earlier actions."
It was also said that Wenger initially did not recall telling Taylor that he was "dishonest to his federation" and subsequently claimed that he had "said something with the intention of questioning the "quality" of the officials' decision making but not the integrity of their decision making". The Frenchman "regretted the choice of language used" and was "very unhappy with [his] behaviour".
On his decision to stand in the tunnel, Wenger said that he thought he could watch the game from there and insisted that nobody had offered him instructions as to where he ought to go. He also said that he felt his personal space was being invaded when Taylor raised his arm to indicate that he should leave the area and pushed him away "instinctively". Wenger said he went to the officials' dressing room to apologise after his media duties because his behaviour "was not what I expect of myself".
The commission did not agree with the claim that they did not make it explicitly clear that Wenger was being charged with bringing the game into disrepute for questioning the integrity of the officials and decided on the balance of probabilities that he did use the phrase "you are dishonest to your federation".
Deciding that the confusion of the tunnel incident essentially arose due to Arsenal and Wenger "not fulfilling their respective responsibilities" with respect to the failure to read an FA letter regarding technical area dismissals and the absence of their senior steward, the commission also ruled that Taylor was "well within his remit" to approach Wenger. However, his instruction to return to the dressing room was deemed incorrect.
Taking into account Wenger's previously excellent disciplinary record, his early admission to the charge and his private/public apologies, the commission did not feel that a stadium ban, despite considering it seriously, was a proportionate punishment. They also did not view the physical contact as especially violent or an act of "overt aggression", although made it clear that "all officials ought to be able to do their jobs without fear of being manhandled".