London, November 13: Arsene Wenger stands by the "dive" accusation he levelled at Raheem Sterling after the England forward won a controversial penalty in Manchester City's 3-1 win over Arsenal, and the Gunners boss even applauded his "very positive" exploitation of the referee's "naivety".
Sterling went down in the area under pressure from Nacho Monreal just after half-time in their final match before the international break, and Sergio Aguero duly converted the penalty.
Wenger was left fuming after the match, with his opinion of referee Michael Oliver only worsened by City's third goal contentiously being allowed to stand despite David Silva appearing to be offside before setting up Gabriel Jesus.
The Frenchman accused Sterling of diving to earn the penalty and received significant criticism for his remarks, though he insists that he meant it as a compliment.
When asked if he would congratulate one of his own players for doing similar, Wenger told beIN SPORTS: "Of course, he used the naivety of the referee in a very positive way.
"That's why I said the referees don't work, they don't do their homework. Referees are professional in England, one of only a few countries where it's a profession.
"Look at their schedule and look at how many will go to the World Cup, then you have the answer .
"I didn't say it in a negative way, I said he used the fact that his foot was in front our defender to dive and he dived.
"In a few years he'll say that too. In the heat of the moment of course he'll deny it, but he used it well, using his position to get in front .
Wenger added: "A penalty is a deliberate foul in the box. It's not a provoked foul in the box, so that's where the difference is.
"In a big game like that you need to look at what the defender is doing, not the striker.
"If it was my striker, he would have gone down certainly as well. It was not to blame Raheem Sterling – he used his advantage to fool the referee, that's what he did. But for me it was a dive."
Wenger has so far avoided disciplinary action for his initial criticism of Oliver and his refereeing colleagues, though he says he would not care even if a sanction did come his way.
"I don't mind," he said. "I am 35 years in this job . It will not change my mind or the way I think.
"In that game, we conceded a penalty which was not a penalty and an offside goal. They should look at themselves better rather than blame other people for the comments they make.
"They have to absorb their wrong decision and stand up for it."