Arsene Wenger refuses to gamble on Cesc Fabregas

Arsene Wenger accepts he cannot gamble with the fitness of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, but believes the Spain international is close to his best form.

Fabregas has been hampered by a hamstring problem since his return to first-team action after the World Cup final.

Indeed, the Gunners skipper admitted the issue had been playing on his mind and did not allow for his usual free-flowing game.

Wenger - whose side could book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League against Braga tomorrow - is wary of playing his talisman too much, but believes the injury will soon no longer be of concern.

"It is getting better," said Wenger.

"He was out for a while and had a recurrence of his hamstring problem, then it gets in your head.

"When it gets in your head, it is difficult to play free of your mind.

"I feel it is getting better in every match, from game to game he becomes stronger.

"On Saturday against Tottenham, he has created three great goal chances, so we are getting back to the normal Cesc."

Wenger revealed: "Sometimes after the game he has a little recurrence, but at the moment I do not want to take a massive gamble.

"We cannot afford to lose him, so I check every morning of the game how he is and we monitor him quite well, but it is on the way up."

Wenger elected to leave both Russian winger Andrey Arshavin and Holland forward Robin van Persie behind when the squad headed out to Portugal this afternoon, while defender Gael Clichy had a minor back complaint.

Van Persie has made a couple of substitute appearances since returning from an ankle injury sustained at the end of August, but lacks match-sharpness.

Wenger believes the Dutchman's recovery is better served working hard at the club's Hertfordshire training base than by just warming the bench again.

"It is to improve his fitness," Wenger revealed.

"Robin is back in the squad but is not 100% fit at the moment.

"He is not in a condition physically to fight in the top-level games, so I take advantage of that to make him work very hard."

Wenger maintained: "I feel that is what he needs at the moment,

"If I go to Braga with him and put him on when he is not 100% on the bench and does not come on, it is a waste of time for three days."

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