Arsenal rollercoaster takes some new twists and turns

Updated: 2011-08-25 07:45

(China Daily)

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Wenger's Euro suspension put on hold, but it's adios to Nasri as Gunners' plight continues

LONDON - Arsenal's early-season soap opera took more twists and turns on Tuesday with midfielder Samir Nasri poised to join Manchester City and manager Arsene Wenger given clearance by UEFA to delay his European ban.

The London side left French playmaker Nasri (pictured) at home to finalise a move to big-spending Premier League rival City as it headed off to Italy ahead of its Champions League playoff round second-leg against Udinese on Wednesday.

Arsenal, which will defend a 1-0 lead after a nervy win at the Emirates, will at least have Wenger sitting on the bench after European soccer's governing body, UEFA, agreed not to suspend him until it had considered the club's appeal.

Wenger was banned for two European matches on Monday for failing in the first leg to abide by the conditions of a previous suspension.

While UEFA at least gave Wenger and Arsenal some good news, the English FA was in no such forgiving mood and fined the club, as well as Newcastle United, 30,000 pounds ($49,482) for failing to control their players in their ill-tempered opening league match.

Arsenal rollercoaster takes some new twists and turns

Wenger, with money to spend, faces a race against time before the transfer window closes to bring in high-class reinforcements to replace Nasri and former captain Cesc Fabregas, who joined European champion Barcelona earlier this month.

Arsenal said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell Nasri to City with a fee, according to media reports, put at about 25 million pounds ($41 million).

"The summer was very difficult because we had Cesc Fabregas and Nasri on permanent transfer negotiations and that is draining in the end," Wenger said.

"We've lost two great players and that's the sad side of the story but at some stage it has to be over because you have to focus on the future."

Wenger will at least be able to direct operations at pitchside in Udinese after UEFA agreed to delay his ban.

The Frenchman's original ban stemmed from his behavior in last season's round-of-16 tie at Barcelona.

Wenger was then seen sitting in the stands and talking on a mobile phone in last week's first leg, passing instructions to the team bench.

UEFA rules stipulate coaches cannot communicate with their teams while they are serving a touchline ban.

"The UEFA appeals body has granted a stay of execution to the appeal," UEFA said on its website.

Wenger, whose side has taken just one point from its opening two Premier League games, played down the significance of Wednesday's match against Udinese where a place in the lucrative Champions League group stages is at stake.

"It's not critical, it's an opportunity for us to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League and so it's a good opportunity and we have enough to achieve that," he said.

A good result in Italy will at least help pay off Tuesday's fine by the English FA resulting from the fracas in the 0-0 draw at St. James' Park on Aug 13.

Arsenal had striker Gervinho sent off in the 76th minute of that game following a tussle with Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton, who received a yellow card for his part in the scuffle.

Gervinho was subsequently given a three-match ban along with teammate Alex Song, who was suspended for violent conduct following an earlier altercation with Barton.

Reuters

(China Daily 08/25/2011 page24)