Wenger accuses Jerkan

Arsene Wenger, the manager of Arsenal, has accused the Nottingham Forest defender, Nikola Jerkan, of "cheating" during the incident which saw Ian Wright sent off at the City Ground last Saturday.

Arsenal's leading scorer was show the red card after the Croatian defender fell to the ground following an off-the-ball clash between the two men. Jerkan claimed that his shin had been raked by Wright's studs.

Wright, who has vehemently denied the accusation, now faces a three-match ban, but the referee, Steve Lodge, who admits he did not see the incident but acted on linesman John Holbrook's advice, has promised to look at a video recording.

Arsenal, via the Football Association, have also sent a copy of the film to Holbrook, with Wenger explaining: "I cannot think that the linesman had a good view of it at the time.

"But it is obvious from the film that Jerkan was cheating. I agree Ian Wright might have acted provocatively and I know that we have to adjust our ways to make sure we keep 11 players on the field.

"But the reaction by Jerkan to anything that Wright did was ridiculous. I think the video makes it perfectly clear and I think the matter should be judged on that evidence.

"Jerkan had already been shown a yellow card in the game before he deliberately obstructed Ian Wright, which should have produced another yellow card. Instead, just 20 seconds later we had our player sent off instead.

"What Jerkan did is something for which foreign players have a bad reputation. Speaking generally, I think an English player would not act like that but foreigners are bringing bad things as well as good things to the game here."

Unless the referee changes his mind, Wright's sending-off will carry a three-match ban beginning with Arsenal's FA Cup tie against Sunderland. Even if the red card is commuted to yellow it will still take him beyond the FA's 21-points disciplinary barrier and land him with a two-match suspension.

Middlesbrough could also be in trouble with football's authorities after pulling out of their match at Blackburn last week because they had 23 players unavailable through injuries and illness. They did so without the Premier League's permission and must appear before a League commission on 14 January. They could be fined and have points deducted.

Meanwhile Bryan Robson, Middlesbrough's manager, has responded to criticisms by his Italian striker, Fabrizio Ravanelli, of training facilities and coaching methods in the Premiership. Ravanelli, whose remarks were made on Italian television, claimed he was forced to train on his own at Middlesbrough using charts supplied by his former club, Juventus.

Robson said: "Ravanelli trained on his own when he stayed behind during our pre-season tours but he does not train on his own now." Robson also said that match preparations were different by necessity in England compared to those in Italy. He pointed out that English teams face a demanding fixture programme whereas Italian teams generally play only on Sundays.

Walsall are to study an FA report into last week's Turf Moor floodlight failure before deciding whether to seek compensation. Walsall were leading 1-0 in the FA Cup second round replay at Burnley a week ago when the lights went out during half-time, forcing the match to be abandoned. Walsall lost the replayed match on Monday.

Sunderland are close to concluding a pounds 400,000 deal with Zeytinburnu for the purchase of the Turkish club's Senegalese striker, Mamadou Diallo. Norwich City have completed the signing of Matthew Jackson from Everton for pounds 450,000, while the Portsmouth striker, Deon Burton, has joined Cardiff City on a month's loan.

Sunderland success, page 19

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