Walcott out, Fabregas doubt

Arsene Wenger has revealed Theo Walcott will miss the Carling Cup final with an ankle injury, while Cesc Fabregas is also a doubt.

Fabregas had to be substituted with a hamstring problem after only 14 minutes of the Gunners’ 1-0 win over Stoke City at the Emirates on Wednesday, Sebastien Squillaci scoring the only goal to put Arsenal just one point behind English Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Walcott was stretchered off after 71 minutes to add to manager Arsene Wenger’s problems as they prepare to face Birmingham City at Wembley on Sunday.

“Theo has an ankle sprain and is out. For how long, I can’t tell you, but for Sunday he’s definitely out,” Wenger said.

“Fabregas is a hamstring problem, we’ll assess it tomorrow. It’s impossible to say how serious it is.”

“It is of course a concern that he’s injured but it can happen. He was very upset, I am as well. But it’s not his fault, it’s not my fault, it’s just part of sport. We have to face it. We did the job after that in a very professional way that’s what we should concentrate on.”

Wenger was alluding to the way his team survived an increasingly ferocious second half to keep hold of three crucial points.

“It shows we have matured because we can win a game when we are less creative than usual but with intelligence, brain and calm,” he said.

“That’s what has changed. A few years ago when we were not on top of our game we dropped points but not this time – I must give a lot of credit to my players tonight.”

Arsenal held out admirably to take the points and are now only one point behind Man United – who face Chelsea away next week – heaping pressure on their title rivals.

“We have all pressure now because March is the period where it starts,” Wenger said.

“Chelsea are under pressure, Man United, everybody. That’s part of being in the position we are in. Three months ago when we lost at home to Newcastle who would have said we would even be in the top four? But we have come back in a strong position and I’m very happy about that.”

Stoke boss Tony Pulis insists his team were not to blame for Arsenal losing Fabregas and Walcott to injury and believes his players are unfairly portrayed as villains.

“You can’t stop people’s perception but we have a very good disciplinary record,” he said.

“Arsenal have had six players sent off to our two, they have had more bookings than us. And you wouldn’t say they are a dirty side.”

“But we have to get on with it; we’re very competitive and we’re a very honest team. We don’t like people rolling around getting people booked. That’s the way we like to do it. We like to do it an honest way.”

“I’ve got nothing against Arsenal. They are a fantastic football club and fantastic team. I hope for British football they go to Barca and win but when we play against them we have to be competitive.”

“We weren’t in the first 10 minutes when I thought we were in for a hiding. But in the second half we are desperately disappointed we didn’t get something out of the game.”