Fabregas injury 'not my fault'

Wenger defends decision to play key midfielder who broke leg after claiming he was fit
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The Independent Football

Arsenal's press conference yesterday resembled a scene from Casualty as Dr Wenger issued yet another medical bulletin, then defended his decision to expose Cesc Fabregas and William Gallas to Champions League action in midweek.

Both exacerbated existing injuries and have been ruled out for the season. Pressed as to why he let the pair play, Arsène Wenger said: "At the end of the day my job is not to push the players to play when they are injured. But it is [also] not to stop them playing when they feel they can play, and they want to play."

Fabregas finished Wednesday's Barcelona match with a broken leg, an injury that appears to have originated in Craig Gardner's tackle in the match with Birmingham City last weekend.

Wenger said his gut feeling was that his leg would not have become broken had it not been for that incident, but added "there was no reason to stop him playing [on Wednesday]. We have two independent doctors who do not work at the club, they looked at the X-ray and if they had felt that it needed a deeper investigation then they would have told us. We have to accept that this can happen in football."

Had Fabregas under-stated the pain he was in? "There is always that possibility. You play with pain sometimes and nine times out of 10 you get away with it. One time you make your injury worse."

Of Gallas, who broke down with a recurrence of his long-standing calf problem, Wenger said: "Gallas was born in 1977, he's 32, going to 33. You ask a player of that experience, 'do you feel ready to play? Have you worked hard enough? Are you ready to go into the game?' And when he says 'Yes,' you have to believe him.

"He declared himself fit. I have the reports from the rehabilitation centre where he was for ten days, he had four days training with the team, and maybe he should have taken some more time. But he was jumping, he was running up and down the stairs in France, in very hard sessions."

Wenger gave short shrift to his compatriot Raymond Domenech, coach of France, who has criticised the decision to play Gallas and suggested the defender will now miss the World Cup.

"The French national team is important but first we have to take care of the interests of Arsenal," said Wenger. "The player is paid by the club, so we have to use the players when they declare themselves fit. I do not think this will cost him his World Cup. "

Also absent from today's Premier League match with Wolves is Andrei Arshavin (calf) but Denilson (groin) and Gaël Clichy (back) have recovered from injuries incurred on Wednesday. Sol Campbell, said Wenger, will also play. The Arsenal manager said he had not replaced the stricken Gallas with Campbell on Wednesday as the 35-year-old former England international was still suffering from a groin problem picked up at St Andrew's.

The decision to play Campbell today suggests he will be omitted from Tuesday's return leg against Barcelona but Wenger insisted: "If we need him, he will play. But first he has to play a full game without injury."

With so much focus on Barcelona there is a danger that today's match will be given insufficient attention, but victory, should the Old Trafford summit meeting be drawn, would put Arsenal within two points of the Premier League lead with five matches to play. Wenger said his team should concentrate on winning their match, adding: "I believe this game demands 100 per cent focus – nobody beats Wolves at the moment just turning up and thinking it will be easy. They are on a good run. It will show how much focus we can bring to a game like this."