JOEY BARTON last night hit back at Arsene Wenger’s claims the Newcastle midfielder should have been sent off during Saturday’s sensational 4-4 draw by suggesting Arsenal’s players should play netball instead.

Barton was at the centre of the incident which ended with the Gunners’ Abou Diaby shown the red card for two acts of petulance four minutes in to the second half at St James’ Park.

Diaby’s rush of blood, which included shoving both Barton and Kevin Nolan to the ground in retaliation, stemmed from the Newcastle midfielder’s crunching challenge on the Frenchman when the player wearing black and white emerged with the ball.

Wenger, drawing on the memory of the serious injuries suffered by Diaby during awful tackles from Sunderland’s Dan Smith and Bolton’s Paul Robinson in recent years, felt Barton should have been punished.

But the controversial Newcastle man, who deserves credit for not responding after Diaby’s reaction, thinks it was all a fuss about nothing, even if it was Diaby’s sending off that led to Newcastle’s incredible revival.

Barton said: “If Arsenal players don’t like being tackled, they should go and play basketball or netball.”

But Wenger countered: “It was a completely unnecessary sending off and I believe Barton was very lucky to stay on the pitch for the tackle on Diaby. Certainly the tackle provoked his reaction.”

Arsenal’s failure to hold on to their four-goal half-time advantage denied a victory that would have left them just two points shy of leaders Manchester United.

Rather than reflect on a thrilling game beamed around the world, Wenger said: “It was not a great advert internationally because people who have seen that will not agree with what happened.

“What does it say about my team? It says that we have played 12 games since the first of January and they have played outstandingly well, but to go down to ten men had a psychological impact.

“In the second half you must say that we were really unlucky with some decisions.”