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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 16:17 GMT
Volz can solve Arsenal headache
By Stuart Roach

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger faces a huge selection headache for next month's trip to Birmingham following Thursday's verdict on 'the Arsenal five'.

The Football Association announced suspensions for four of the five players charged following the infamous brawl with Manchester United at Old Trafford last month.

And with the punishments effective from Monday, 17 November, Wenger has some head scratching to do ahead of the trip to St Andrews five days later.

His defence will be stripped to the bare bones, with Martin Keown and Lauren banned for three and four games respectively.

It could be worse: Wenger will be relieved Ashley Cole escaped with a fine as the Gunners would have been torn apart if all three defenders had been given bans.

Wenger has plugged the central defensive gap that wrecked last season, Kolo Toure improving with every game as a converted centre-back alongside the imperious Sol Campbell.

England full-back Cole continues to prowl the left flank to great affect and is free to carry on, albeit with a 10,000 fine against his name.

But in Lauren's absence, the opposite full-back berth now represents a gaping wound which could have a terminal affect on Arsenal's season.

Lauren was already a makeweight in the position, though has performed well enough for Wenger to allow Oleg Luzhny to join Wolves in the summer.

But the absence of the Cameroon international will force emergency action from the Arsenal manager.

Ray Parlour is capable of plugging the gap, but is himself banned for the Birmingham game after receiving a one-match suspension and a 10,000 fine for his part in the fracas.

Another who has played in the role is Toure, who will already be needed at centre-back.

So 18-year-old full-back Justin Hoyte could yet win a senior call-up.

Hoyte performed admirably for a youthful Gunners side in the Carling Cup shoot-out win over First Division Rotherham on Tuesday, a display which would have put him in Wenger's thoughts.

But if, as seems certain, Wenger gloried in watching title rivals Manchester United crash at home to Fulham on Saturday, then the most obvious solution would have been staring him in the face.

Moritz Volz
Volz could solve a problem for Wenger
Right-back Moritz Volz was sent by Wenger to Fulham to gain experience - and judging by his performance at Old Trafford he has more than enough to solve a crisis for the Gunners.

The German full-back reduced the explosive Cristiano Ronaldo to a series of stepovers on Saturday and bombed up and down the right wing to huge affect.

His crossing was a constant danger and his ability to rattle United will surely not have gone unnoticed by Wenger.

Volz is officially on loan at Loftus Road until the end of December, but Fulham confirmed to this website that the deal contains a 24-hour recall clause.

That means any request by close of business on Thursday would clear him to play for Arsenal at Elland Road.

Keown's ban will inflict less of a headache on Wenger, with Campbell and Toure forming a growing understanding at the heart of the defence.

But his absence will leave the Gunners desperately short of central defensive cover for the Premiership games against Birmingham, Fulham and Leicester.

Pascal Cygan, yet to start a Premiership game this season, has not justified his 2m price tag.

And highly-rated Swiss 18-year-old Philippe Senderos remains sidelined by injury and untried at the highest level.

Greek defender Efstathios Tavlaridis played three times on loan at Portsmouth last season and made his Premiership debut for Arsenal last season, but still lacks experience.

So Wenger would almost certainly turn to versatile Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva in an emergency, which in itself would have a huge knock-on effect in midfield should Parlour and Vieira be banned.

Arsenal's problems, however, have undoubtedly been eased by their decision to plead guilty to all charges.

Wenger was apparently reluctant not to fight his players' corner, but his decision to back down and accept the charges has probably rescued Arsenal from mass suspensions.

The fines are hefty, amounting to a total of 275,000, but the impact will be a little easier to take.

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