Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger faces being slapped with an extensive touchline ban by The Football Association after a series of incidents overshadowed the last gasp 2-1 win over Burnley in the Premier League.
Alexis Sanchez netted a penalty in the eighth minute of added-on time to move the 10-man Gunners into second, eight points behind leaders Chelsea – but it was events off the field which dominated the fall-out from the dramatic game at The Emirates Stadium.
The 67-year-old was initially sent from the dugout after questioning referee Jon Moss’ decision to award the Clarets a stoppage-time spot kick after Francis Coquelin tripped Ashley Barnes, but Arsenal deny their manager accused the official of being a cheat.
Andre Gray converted to seemingly assure the visitors a point, while Wenger attempted to watch the game from the tunnel when he appeared to push fourth official Anthony Taylor.
While the Arsenal boss has been charged with misconduct by The FA for laying a hand on a match official, as well as an allegation of improper conduct for his criticism of Moss. The Evening Standard understand the French boss branded Moss a “cheat” before withdrawing himself from the field of play and watching on television as Sanchez struck late on.
Wenger therefore faces being forced to watch Arsenal’s FA Cup fourth round tie at Southampton, the Premier League visit of Watford and summit meeting with Chelsea away from the comfort of the dugout and will be prohibited from making direct contact with his team during each match. If the ban is further extended, Wenger could also be absent for Hull City’s trip to north London on 11 February.
After his side claimed the late win which keeps alive their hopes of winning the Premier League title, Wenger apologised for his actions and regretted his behaviour during added-on time.
“I didn’t know if I was sent to the stands but I was sent out,” he said, according to the official Arsenal website. “I thought I could watch it from the corridor, you know. I went inside and watched it on television. I regret everything. I should have shut up, gone in and gone home, basically. I apologise for that.
“Not yet [had the chance to speak with the officials], because I have a press conference to make. It was nothing bad. I said something that you hear every day in football, but overall nine times out of 10, you’re not sent to the stands for that. But if I am, I am – and I should have shut up completely. I was quite calm the whole game, more than usual, but just [not] in the last two or three minutes.”
On Monday Wenger was charged by FA disciplinary chiefs, who are now weighing up his punishment. First, the FA must decide whether to hand a stadium or touchline ban to Wenger for Sunday’s misbehaviour.
Wenger has until 6pm on Thursday to respond.
But with the Frenchman unlikely to challenge the charge, Arsenal may look to speed up the process so he can serve part of a likely ban against Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday.
An FA statement read: ‘Arsene Wenger has been charged for misconduct following Arsenal’s game against Burnley on Sunday.
‘It is alleged that in or around the 92nd minute, he used abusive and/or insulting words towards the fourth official.
‘It is further alleged that following his dismissal from the technical area, his behaviour in remaining in the tunnel area and making physical contact with the fourth official amounted to improper conduct.’
If Wenger is banned as expected, it potentially leaves Arsenal without four key individuals for the visit to Stamford Bridge to face leaders Chelsea at the start of February.
Granit Xhaka’s second domestic red card of the season will ensure he misses the next four games, while club captain Per Mertesacker and playmaker Santi Cazorla are expected to remain out injured.
Theo Walcott and Mathieu Debuchy however should return from calf and hamstring injuries.