Andoni Iraola accuses Kai Havertz of 'diving' as Bournemouth fume over Arsenal VAR drama

Andoni Iraola accuses Kai Havertz of 'diving' as Bournemouth fume over Arsenal VAR drama

Andoni Iraola conceded that Arsenal fully deserved to beat his Bournemouth team, but expressed frustration at the officials and accused Kai Havertz of diving.

The title-chasing Gunners ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in Saturday’s lunchtime Premier League kick-off at the Emirates Stadium, opening up a four-point lead at the summit before rivals Manchester City host Wolves in the evening top-flight fixture.

Arsenal finally broke the deadlock shortly before half-time after a thoroughly one-sided opening period had otherwise failed to yield a breakthrough, with Bukayo Saka coolly rolling home his 20th goal of the season across all competitions from the penalty spot.

The spot-kick was awarded for a challenge by Mark Travers on Kai Havertz, with the decision upheld following a long VAR check despite some feeling that the Arsenal forward had deliberately left his leg trailing in order to initiate the contact with the goalkeeper.

Bournemouth were much improved after half-time in north London but fell 2-0 behind with 20 minutes to go thanks to Leandro Trossard’s strike, with Antoine Semenyo’s quick-fire reply then controversially ruled out after the officials deemed that Dominic Solanke had fouled Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya in the build-up.

Replays showed the contact appeared minimal, while there was also a strong suggestion that William Saliba may have fouled Philip Billing in close proximity in the box just before Solanke’s challenge on Raya.

Controversy: Arsenal were awarded a penalty for Mark Travers’ challenge on Kai Havertz (Getty Images)
Controversy: Arsenal were awarded a penalty for Mark Travers’ challenge on Kai Havertz (Getty Images)

Had it not been ruled out, then Bournemouth would have been right back in the game at 2-1 with plenty of time still to play.

Arsenal later saw a terrific strike from Gabriel rightly chalked off for offside, though they would not be denied a third goal as man of the match Declan Rice netted deep into second-half stoppage time.

Bournemouth boss Iraola had no doubt that the better side won on the day, though he was angry with the decisions that went against his team.

“I think he [Travers] was [unlucky],” Iraola told TNT Sports. “I don’t think it was a penalty.

“Havertz is the one trying to find the contact and he is diving at the end. It’s a smart decision from Kai Havertz, but I can’t understand it that the VAR hasn’t overturned it.

“I can’t understand the second half, the foul they’ve given because in the same place it’s a much more clear foul to Philip Billing when he gets in front of him [Saliba].

“For me, they are key decisions. I repeat, they deserved to win, clearly they have been much better than us. But I don’t think it has to be this way.

“I understand the narrative of the game, that they are playing for a title and we are already in a good spot. But we had key moments, for half-time in the 0-0... when you are going to score at 2-1 and then we are playing well.

“These have been important decisions that have not allowed us to compete in the end.”

Asked if he had received an explanation from the referee as to why Semenyo’s goal was ruled out, Iraola added: “No, there is no explanation.

“I am sure they are going to tell me in two or three days the members of the panel that no, you were right, it’s not a foul or it’s a penalty for Philip Billing before or the penalty is not to Kai Havertz.

“But it’s over, it’s 3-0, we keep the narrative until the end, until the last day of the season, but I have to repeat I think they deserved to win because they were better than us today.”

Asked for his opinion on those contentious decisions, Iraola’s Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta said: “Honestly I haven’t seen the incidents because I knew you would ask me.

“The analysts asked me if I wanted to watch it and I said no because then I can tell the truth and say I haven’t seen it.

“I can have an impression, the one on David, the foul, I cannot see because it’s too far. The one on Bukayo, is it on purpose or not, I don’t know. It’s difficult for me to judge.”

Club legend Ian Wright was among the Arsenal fans who admitted they had been fortunate with the decisions against Bournemouth, writing on social media platform X after the game: “Didn't think it was a penalty. Bournemouth's goal should have stood. Job done three points.”