Wenger charged and mulling a tinker

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger is facing a touchline ban after being charged with improper conduct relating to Saturday’s dramatic 1-1 draw at Sunderland.

Wenger is accused by the Football Association of “using abusive and/or insulting language and behaviour” to the officials in the wake of Darren Bent’s last-gasp equaliser for the Black Cats.

Bent’s strike came in the 95th minute, after the officials had signalled that there would only be four minutes of stoppage time.

The Gunners boss was visibly incensed at the goal and appeared to confront fourth official Martin Atkinson after the final whistle.

Wenger now has until Thursday to decide whether to accept the charge which, under the FA’s new fast-track procedures, will automatically trigger a one-match touchline ban and an £8,000 fine. If he chooses to challenge the accusation his case will be heard by a panel. The Frenchman’s dilemma comes as he faces another big decision, this time regarding his team selection for tonight’s Carling Cup trip to bitter rivals Tottenham.

Wenger has traditionally used domestic cup competitions to blood his best youth team players but is thought to be considering ditching that policy on a one-off basis.

While he is unlikely to field a full-strength team, he has fewer back-up players of the
requisite standing to call upon, having been hit by a glut of injuries, and is set to promote only three players from his youth team: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Henri Lansbury and Craig Eastmond. Wenger will also need no reminding of the 5-1 thrashing his second string took at White Hart Lane in the same competition in 2008, and the subsequent dip in the first team’s form.

Captain Cesc Fabregas is among the injured but revealed yesterday his hamstring injury is not as bad as first feared and he expects to recover within two weeks. The Spain midfielder now faces a race to be fit for the crunch Premier League trip to Chelsea on Sunday 3 October.