Bergkamp's replay hope

 

Dennis Bergkamp will miss only one Premiership game, despite the certainty of a three-match suspension for his FA Cup elbow on West Ham's Steve Lomas, if Arsenal draw their FA Cup semi-final against Wolves at Villa Park on April 5th.

The only sure thing now is that the Dutch star's second ban of the season will start a week next Tuesday when Arsenal visit relegation-haunted Bolton.

That is just five days before the semi-final and a replay, if necessary, is already scheduled for the following Wednesday even though, in earlier rounds, police require a minimum of 10 days notice from the Football Association to organise their match-day security forces.

So Bergkamp could be free to return to the Gunners' League and Cup double-bid in the home game with Newcastle - their possible Wembley rivals - on April 11th.

But the ú7.5 million striker is still treading on eggshells in fear of a further ban.

He is free to face Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury a week on Saturday but a booking in that match would put him on eight yellow cards for the season and incur another suspension for two matches.

Bergkamp has, in fact, been booked nine times already this term. But one of those was in the League Cup which has no bearing on Premiership or FA Cup suspensions and another has been deleted under the experimental FA system which rewards players who complete five consecutive matches without a booking.

Even so, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is known to be quietly seething over Bergkamp's continued failure to check his temper when subjected to the shirt-pulling and arm-grabbing which, sadly, seems to have become a tolerated feature of the English game.

Bergkamp has apologised to his team-mates, admitting he was "stupid" to react so shamefully to Lomas' challenge near the half-way line, but that's unlikely to persuade Wenger from fining him a week's wages under the manager's disciplinary code.

Wenger's concern is that he will miss key players for the backlog of fixtures which is piling up at a frightening rate. Arsenal still have 10 League games to go - compared to Manchester United's seven - and now a new date for the trip to Liverpool, which was due to take place on FA Cup semi-final day, must be found.

And, intriguingly, Wenger believes there is still the outside chance of an extension to the league season - a subject over which he and Alex Ferguson famously fell out last term when the United boss objected to his team having to finish the campaign with four games in nine days.

Wenger, in company with Liverpool's Roy Evans, vigorously opposed Ferguson's appeal to the FA and Premier League for "extra time" but now the boot could be on the other foot.