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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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Clattenburg verdict imminent

Mark Clattenburg's future will become clear by Friday with the FA set to announce their long-awaited verdict on Chelsea's allegations of inappropriate language towards John Obi Mikel.

ESPN understands that the FA have been working overtime with their legal representatives to ensure whatever charges, if any, will stick in front of an independent tribunal.

The incident occurred on October 28 at Stamford Bridge, but the FA have insisted that all aspects of the potential charges are carefully assessed.

It cannot be ruled out that Clattenburg will not be charged, while Chelsea could be in hot water themselves for their reaction to defeat by Manchester United in the referees dressing room post-match.

The FA have interviewed several Chelsea players, including Mikel and Ashley Cole as well as Clattenburg, assistant referees Michael McDonough and Simon Long and fourth official Michael Jones as they seek to get to the bottom of the row once and for all.

Clattenburg will miss a fourth weekend of matches as Chelsea's complaint against him continues. He strenuously denies the allegations and does not want to take charge of any matches while the case is ongoing so was not considered for any of this weekend's games.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck gave has defended the club's actions, but the referees' union believes the club should not have gone public over the issue before the FA had reached its conclusion while a complaint against Clattenburg to the police by the Society of Black Lawyers was dropped because neither the FA nor Chelsea brought any complaint to the police.

But the fall-out of the case has caused friction between Chelsea and their Premier League rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.

Chelsea have been less than impressed by the intervention of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. ESPN understands that the managers of Manchester United and Arsenal have angered those inside the west London club.

Within the Stamford Bridge boardroom words such as hypocritical, opportunistic, cynical, and an attempt to curry favour with the referees have all been used but Chelsea will make no official or public statement or comment about what has been said by Ferguson and Wenger.

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