Arsenal take gamble with guilty pleas

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The Independent Football

Arsenal have taken a calculated gamble in an attempt to avoid a suspension crisis as the club admitted the guilt of players involved in ugly scenes which marred the goalless draw at Old Trafford last month.

Arsenal face a sizeable fine after admitting the overall charge of failing to control their players during the confrontational incidents which occurred during and immediately after the game. And while their manager, Arsène Wenger, had previously indicated his desire to fight the individual charges facing his players, the club have now revealed that they will not, in fact, be contesting any of them.

One explanation is that the club finally realised they could not defend the indefensible. However, another theory is that they will now appeal for leniency based mainly on guilty pleas.

Arsenal hope that could potentially save Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira and Ray Parlour from anything more than a one-match ban or even a fine after they admitted charges of improper conduct.

Martin Keown and Lauren will nevertheless still bear the brunt of the FA's disciplinary might as they admitted more serious charges. Lauren could be banned for up to five games for one charge of violent behaviour in "forcibly pushing Ruud van Nistelrooy in the back" and two charges of improper conduct for "confronting Van Nistelrooy" and "kicking out at Quinton Fortune". Keown, meanwhile, has admitted one charge of violent behaviour towards Van Nistelrooy and still could face a three-match ban.

Lauren could originally have faced an eight-game suspension, while Keown was in danger of receiving a four-match ban, so Arsenal's approach could yet work in their favour.

After all, the goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has already escaped punishment as a charge of improper conduct for "his behaviour towards match officials" will be withdrawn and he will only be warned over his future conduct.

Arsenal's approach contrasts with that of Manchester United, who will contest the charges of improper conduct faced by Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, and have requested personal hearings.

Old Trafford brawl: Who admits what

Arsenal have admitted a charge of "failing to ensure the proper behaviour of their players". They face a large fine.

Martin Keown has admitted one charge of violent behaviour towards Van Nistelrooy. While another charge of improper conduct has been dropped, he could face a three-match ban.

Lauren has admitted a charge of violent behaviour for "forcibly pushing Van Nistelrooy in the back following the final whistle". He has also admitted two charges of improper conduct "for confronting Van Nistelrooy after Patrick Vieira's sending-off, and for kicking out at Quinton Fortune following the penalty award". Another charge of improper conduct relating to actions towards Ryan Giggs has been dropped, but he could still be banned for up to five games.

Ray Parlour admitted two charges of improper conduct "for separate confrontations with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gary Neville after the final whistle". One of these was downgraded from a violent conduct charge and he faces a potential two-match ban.

Ashley Cole has admitted a charge of improper conduct "for his involvement in a confrontation with Cristiano Ronaldo after the final whistle". He could face a one-match ban.

Patrick Vieira has admitted a charge of improper conduct for "failing to leave the field of play following his sending-off". He could also face a one-match ban.

Jens Lehmann had faced a charge of improper conduct for "his behaviour towards match officials", but this will be withdrawn and he will be warned as to his future conduct.

Ryan Giggs has denied a charge of improper conduct for his "involvement in a confrontation with Lauren after the match had ended". He could face a one-match ban if found guilty.

Cristiano Ronaldo has denied a charge of improper conduct for "confronting Martin Keown, also at the conclusion of the match" and, if found guilty, could also face a one-match ban.

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