Arsene Wenger is considering accepting his Football Association charge for improper conduct today which will mean that he will be forced to sit in the stand tonight for Arsenal's potentially fiery Carling Cup third-round game against their rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
The Arsenal manager was hit by an improper conduct charge yesterday for his rant at the fourth official Martin Atkinson during his side's 1-1 draw with Sunderland on Saturday. Under the fast-track process if he accepts the charge, which carries a one-match touchline ban and a £8,000 fine, he will be able to take his punishment immediately.
Should he request a hearing then he risks being sat in the stand when Arsenal play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 3 October, potentially a far more significant game. The hearing would, in all likelihood, not be convened until after Saturday's game against West Bromwich Albion despite the new speeded-up approach from the FA.
Last night Wenger was said to be thinking over his options. The Arsenal manager pushed Atkinson in the back during his loss of cool over Sunderland's equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time. The FA charge outlines "insulting and/or abusive language and behaviour amounting to improper conduct". It is the "abusive behaviour" part of that charge that is thought to relate to the shove on Atkinson.
If Wenger appeals he also risks being given an extra punishment. He has never been the subject of a touchline ban since he came to England in 1996. Although tonight's game is in a competition that does not rank highly in terms of importance for Arsenal, a place in the stand would not be a comfortable experience for Wenger who is often subjected to appalling personal abuse by some of the home fans at White Hart Lane.
It also emerged yesterday that Wenger is considering playing a stronger team than he would usually field in the Carling Cup game against Spurs. In the past the Arsenal manager has traditionally used it to give his youngsters a chance but tonight it is anticipated that he will field a much more experienced team.
There is expected to be a first-team debut for Chuks Aneke, a promising 17-year-old midfielder from the club's academy who is already a fixture in the reserve side. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, 19, who played a significant role as a loan player in Blackpool's promotion push last season is also anticipated to feature. He made his first-team debut in the FA Cup last season.
Otherwise Wenger is expected to pick the likes of Johan Djourou, Denilson, Lukasz Fabianski, Kieran Gibbs and Tomas Rosicky who were on the bench for the game against Sunderland.
There was better news on the injury front from Cesc Fabregas who told his followers on Twitter yesterday that he expected to be back from injury within two weeks after picking up a hamstring injury against Sunderland on Saturday. The midfielder had a scan yesterday. "Good news on my injury," Fabregas wrote. "I have some fluid but nothing bad in the muscle. I hope I can be playing in 2 weeks."
Harry Redknapp said yesterday that it was more important to aim to win trophies than use the Carling Cup as a competition in which to bring through young players. The Spurs manager said that fans were more interested in winning although he too has selection issues ahead of the game at White Hart Lane tonight.
Redknapp said: "I think that you need to win. The fans want to see some trophies. I wouldn't want to be sitting in a position where the fans say, 'It was good, he played all the kids and didn't win nothing [sic] but he has a good youth team'. That doesn't work either – not for me. I couldn't do that with the first team.
"If I wasn't in Europe, I would have a real go to win the Carling Cup. I don't know why other teams in the League [lower down the table], don't play their best players. They can't win the League, that's impossible. They can win the FA Cup or Carling Cup. So to throw one out of the window I never understand why they do that."
Redknapp will play his new Brazilian midfielder Sandro as well as the new Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, David Bentley, Wilson Palacios and Niko Kranjcar. Although Spurs have the majority of their young players out on loan, two of them, Steven Caulker, a centre-half, and Jake Livermore, a midfielder, have a chance of playing.
Carling Cup line-ups
Probable Tottenham team (4-4-2)
Stipe Pletikosa (age 31); Alan Hutton (25), Steven Caulker (18), Sébastien Bassong (24), Benoît Assou-Ekotto (26);
David Bentley (26), Sandro (21), Wilson Palacios (26), Niko Kranjcar (26); Robbie Keane (30), Roman Pavlyuchenko (30).
*Average Age: 25 years, 8 months
Probable Arsenal team (4-3-3)
Lukas Fabianski (25); Gavin Hoyte (20), Johan Djourou (23), Alex Song (23),
Kieran Gibbs (20); Emmanuel Eboue (27), Denilson (22), Chuks Aneke (17);
Tomas Rosicky (29), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (19), Carlos Vela (21).
*Average Age: 22 years, 5 months