Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger faces big phone bill if found guilty of breaking ban

By Paul Hirst

Arsene Wenger will find out by tonight if he will be charged by Uefa for breaching the conditions of his ban by making contact with the Arsenal bench during Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Udinese.

Wenger had to watch the Champions League play-off first leg from the stands because of the one-game ban he received as a result of his criticism of Swiss referee Massimo Busacca after last year's controversial defeat in Barcelona.

Article 70 of Uefa's disciplinary regulations state that any banned manager may sit in the stands, but “may not enter the dressing room, tunnel or technical area before or during the match, nor may he communicate with his team.”

Wenger appeared to break that rule at the Emirates after he was pictured communicating to assistant Pat Rice on the touchline via first-team coach Boro Primorac.

Any fine that could be imposed on Wenger will depend on whether the referee or match delegate claim the Frenchman broke the rules in their official reports, which have to be in 48 hours after the match.

It is likely that those reports will be delivered today. As well as being charged for communicating with the bench, it looks certain the 60-year-old will be fined for failing to fulfil his media commitments by not giving a post-match press conference.

Wenger cut a frustrated and sometimes anxious figure from high up on Tuesday as Arsenal laboured to a narrow win courtesy of Theo Walcott's fourth minute strike.

The England winger was guilty of missing two more decent chances, though, and the Gunners now have to protect a slender lead in Udine next Wednesday against a dangerous Italian side.

Italy striker Antonio Di Natale rattled the woodwork twice at the Emirates and Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had to pull off two good saves in a match which Arsenal looked well below their best.

Walcott admits he was taken aback at the Serie A side's strength at times, but is still confident the Londoners will qualify for the Champions League group stages.

“Udinese are very good — very strong, quick and at times I think they taught us a bit of a lesson,” he said.

“They are very strong in midfield but it is a good result.

“We have players to come back and they will be under more pressure because they have to come at us more.

“We didn't want to commit too many bodies forward because we know how dangerous they are as a counter-attacking team. So we were very tight as a defence and that is a positive — clean sheets in two games is great.”

Wenger has a number of selection problems ahead of Liverpool's visit on Sunday.

Gervinho and Alex Song are banned after last week's ill-tempered draw at Newcastle, Jack Wilshere missed the Udinese game with an ankle problem and Kieran Gibbs and John Djourou both suffered hamstring injuries on Tuesday.

Song and Gervinho will return for the second leg, however, and Robin van Persie is available after his suspension.

Full-back Bacary Sagna is confident that he and his team-mates will be able to cope with the task of curbing their attacking instincts to see out the tie next week.

“We have to learn to play this kind of game to win this way,” Sagna said.

“Of course we can play better. Last night we showed that if we don't play as we usually do we can still win.

“We want to stay sharp and keep a clean sheet over there. We just have to defend as a team as we did last night.”

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