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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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FA Clattenburg decision due next week

Referee Mark Clattenburg will have to wait until next week to discover the outcome of the FA investigation into a Chelsea complaint against him.

The FA has told ESPN that the delay is due to the complexities of its probe, which is set to run into a third week.

Clattenburg will now miss a third weekend of Premier League fixtures, having been taken off the list of match officials because of the ongoing investigation into claims he directed "inappropriate language" at Blues midfielder John Obi Mikel during the team's 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester United on October 28. Clattenburg strongly denies the claim.

Another allegation made against the official, for abusing midfielder Juan Mata, was later dropped by Chelsea, but they pressed ahead and reported the comment about Mikel to the FA following their own internal inquiry, which was headed by an outside legal firm.

The governing body's lawyers are studying witness statements and evidence, and while it is being predicted that Clattenburg will escape any charges, the FA says it is far too early to jump to any conclusions. Clattenburg, assistant referees Michael McDonough and Simon Long, fourth official Michael Jones and several Chelsea players, including Mikel, have all been interviewed as part of the investigation.

A probe by the Metropolitan Police into the alleged incident was closed on Tuesday as no one with direct involvement in the issue made a complaint to police.

It remains a possibility that Chelsea will be charged as a result of a report Clattenburg filed regarding an incident that occurred outside of the field of play. Chelsea individuals are alleged to have made derogatory remarks to Clattenburg in the referee's dressing room after the match.

An ESPN source at the FA said: "I wouldn't speculate either way as no one knows which way it will drop at this stage."

Earlier this week, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck gave a lengthy interview defending the club's decision to pursue their complaint in light of club captain John Terry's recent suspension for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, while Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech said he is eager for the episode to end as soon as possible.

Chelsea, currently third in the Premier League table, three points behind leaders Manchester United, travel to face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

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