Arsene Wenger has performed a sensational U-turn on the fitness of Cesc Fabregas, by refusing to risk the midfielder for tomorrow’s key Champions League clash against Porto, after the Arsenal captain suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in the win over Burnley on Saturday.
Wenger previously said he was ready to gamble on the fitness of Fabregas, in order to advance in the competition, telling the Sun:
“If there is more than a 50 per cent chance of his hamstring going I will not take it.”
But the Frenchman has gone back on his word and decided not to risk the Spain international, who did not train today, saying:
“We cannot take a gamble, so he is not available.
I was hoping (he could be on the bench) after the game because we were quite cautious with him and he was not adamant about coming off, yet he still damaged his hamstring and we cannot take a gamble on him.”
Arsenal need to overcome a 2-1 deficit against Porto tomorrow, who have never won against an English side on home soil. This is the same injury that kept Fabregas out for three weeks last month, and Abou Diaby will replace him in the side, as he did against Burnley on Saturday. This is obviously a key game for Arsenal, and they want to progress in the Champions League, but it is not worth risking your key player, who may worsen his injury if he plays and then miss the rest of the season. Wenger has obviously decided that domestic glory is more important, as he wants Fabregas fit and ready for the Gunners’ assault on the title.
Fabregas has been in fine form this season, scoring 14 goals and having 13 assists in the Premiership this season, and adding a further three goals in the Champions League. The Arsenal captain has been the best midfielder in the Premiership this season, outscoring and setting up more goals than the likes of Lampard and Gerrard, and Arsenal desperately need Fabregas to be at his best if they are to prise the Premiership title away from Chelsea or Man United this season.
Much attention has been paid to Arsenal’s easy run-in this year, as they have already played all of the other sides in the top four, and the derby against Spurs and the game against Man City are the only challenging games that Arsenal have to play. Only two points behind United, Arsenal have got a real chance of winning the title, particularly with United and Chelsea constantly slipping up and the fact that they both still have to play each other. But for Arsenal to win the league, they need Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield.
Ultimately, Wenger is not stupid and would not risk his best player if he was not fit enough to play. Also, Arsenal only need to win 1-0 to progress and they have enough quality to dispose of Porto without Fabregas. If Theo Walcott can terrorise Porto’s defence like he did on Saturday against Burnley and Nicklas Bendtner can take off his blindfold and hit the target, then Arsenal should be good enough to give their talismanic captain the night off.
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