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Wenger risks FA probe after Villa setback

Arsene Wenger may be facing a request from the FA to explain his comments following Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa after he effectively accused officials from the home club of influencing referee Lee Mason.

sports Updated: Dec 27, 2008 10:39 IST

Arsene Wenger may be facing a request from the Football Association (FA) to explain his comments following Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa after he effectively accused officials from the home club of influencing referee Lee Mason during the half-time interval.

The French manager and his counterpart Martin O'Neill were also involved in an angry verbal exchange across the technical areas during the second-half at Villa Park in Birmingham on Friday.

They had to be separated by the fourth official although neither manager received any punishment.

But Wenger's coded accusation that members of the Villa backroom staff spoke with Mason, when Arsenal were leading 1-0 through Denilson's goal, may well be placed under closer scrutiny as it could be viewed as an accusation that Villa had behaved improperly.

"I know exactly how it works here," Wenger said after seeing his side give up a 2-0 lead.

"At half-time the referee gets stick and in the second half, every 50-50 decision went to them.

"I decided to wait and see what happened after half-time and I was not disappointed. It is not only at Villa where it happens. I don't feel the need to elaborate any more."

The draw left Arsenal 10 points behind leaders Liverpool ahead of Wenger's reunion with former Gunners captain Tony Adams, now manager of Portsmouth, at the Emirates on Sunday.

"We are disappointed, but 58 out of 59 experts had us down to lose the game today," Wenger added.

"What happened with Martin O'Neill was nothing. The dug-outs are very close at Villa. You will have to ask him why it happened."

O'Neill and Wenger have been growing into fierce rivals in recent weeks, as Villa look to deprive Arsenal of their regular top four place and the Villa manager was less than impressed with Wenger's accusations.

O'Neill did admit there was a conversation between his longstanding assistant John Robertson and Mason, but said: "There was someone speaking to the referee at half-time. It was John Robertson and he simply asked the referee to explain a decision in the build up to their first goal.

"Gabby Agbonlahor was fouled. He was obstructed, but the foul was not given before they scored. John Robertson asked him to explain why and the referee chose not to.

"There was no one giving him stick. Arsene Wenger has his own opinions about it. As for what happened in the dug-outs, that was much ado about nothing."

Wenger still believes his side can mount a serious title challenge, despite remaining three points out of the top four, behind O'Neill's men, because of Villa's late fightback through Gareth Barry's penalty and Zat Knight's stoppage-time equaliser.

"We believe we have the quality," said Wenger, who saw Abou Diaby score a well-worked second goal.

"Of course we can still win the title. We have played against Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool and Villa are the only team to beat us. We can take confidence from that."

But he faces losing midfielder Alex Song for possibly two weeks with a damaged calf muscle, which forced the him off before half time.

However, Gael Clichy should be fit to start against Portsmouth, after appearing as a second half substitute at Villa Park.

Villa are not in action again until travelling to Hull City on Tuesday but they will not have the services of Danish defender Martin Laursen, who faces a spell out with a knee problem.

Norwegian striker John Carew is also sidelined for another month because of his back injury.

First Published: Dec 27, 2008 10:37 IST