Arsène Wenger has admitted he must be “cautious” with Cesc Fábregas after acknowledging his concerns about the Arsenal captain’s ongoing struggle with hamstring injuries.
Fábregas damaged his right hamstring on Tuesday in the Champions League group game defeat at Braga. The Spanish midfielder had been troubled since the start of the season by an injury to his left hamstring which recently sidelined him for a month.
Wenger had suggested Fábregas would be out for two weeks with the new injury but later admitted he was unsure of the timescale and may have to use his captain carefully in future. “Fábregas will be assessed today with a scan,” he said. “We don’t know how long he will be out. It’s too early to predict.
“It is a big blow because it will question how cautious we have to be in the future with him. Cesc has played 50 games a year since a young age. We may have to be more cautious with him, especially in the next two months.
“We had a chat before the game on Tuesday. He felt perfectly all right, all the data we had were positive so its difficult to say to a player: ‘I know you’re fit, I know you feel good, but you don’t play.’
“And on the other hand if you look at the number of games he played [more than 270 over the course of his career] – he played more the years before last year and the year before.”
Reminded of Fábregas’s recent admission that he suffers tightness in his hips and that he must be careful with his body, Wenger said: “He has more pressure on his shoulders than before. Pressure to do well, pressure to deliver, to be the captain. I don’t know if that has an influence; it’s difficult because you can have psychological reasons, physical reasons. He feels responsibility to win things, that’s for sure. But we have analysed his body and it is not fatigued and he is not tired.”
Wenger denied he might give the armband to another player to alleviate some of the stress on Fábregas. “When you take the captaincy away, you put more pressure on that person,” he said. “You tell them that he’s not good enough to be captain. He’s a fantastic leader. In every big game he takes the ball and plays and [is] not scared.”
Wenger said the injury problems were a puzzle and that he was looking for the cure. “He is a guy who just has a little hamstring problem – where does it come from? Does it come from his back, from the fact that he is naturally not flexible? We are investigating as much as we can. We will consultant every specialist.”
Fábregas made his debut in October 2003 at 16 years and 177 days to become Arsenal’s youngest player, so he has been performing at the top level for seven years. Might this be a contributing factor? “I take that point,” Wenger said. “It could be an explanation but then he should have been injured before.
“[So] Why now? Sometimes a player is 33 but he started only at 25. He didn’t play at the top level for five years but his body age is still at the same pace. When your body clock tells you you’re tired, you’re tired.”
Wenger added that Emmanuel Eboué’s medial knee injury will rule the Ivorian out for between four and eight weeks, but Robin van Persie’s intensive conditioning training this week has put the Dutch striker in contention for Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa.
“Robin had a good test this morning and has a good chance to be in the squad on Saturday,” Wenger added. “He had an ankle problem that has been repeated on the other leg and if he comes through well today’s session, he should be OK.”