Cesc Fabregas target of 'witch hunt' says Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger today claimed Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas was the subject of a witch hunt.
According to Everton manager David Moyes, the Spain midfielder made unrepeatable comments to match officials as the players went down the tunnel at half-time of their Barclays Premier League clash at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, which should have earned him a red card, when Arsenal trailed to a goal which both managers agreed should not have been given due to offside.
The Football Association have confirmed referee Lee Mason did not include the incident in his report, while further claims of what Fabregas had said emerged this morning.
Fabregas, 23, is no stranger to controversy, having been accused of spitting at Hull assistant Brian Horton at the end of their stormy FA Cup quarter-final in March 2009 - of which he was subsequently cleared by the FA - and had used his programme notes for the Everton match to clear up a Twitter row with Huddersfield's Anthony Pilkington over the swapping of shirts after their FA Cup fourth-round win on Sunday.
Wenger is in no doubt his captain is being singled out.
Asked by Press Association Sport if he thought there was a witch hunt against Fabregas, the Arsenal manager replied: "Yes.
"We are long enough in the job to know that somebody picks on you for a while, and you are in the heat of the moment.
"But for me what is the most important is the player behaves well.
"When Cesc is on the pitch, he tries to play football - I cannot say everybody who plays against him tries to do that.
"For example, some people reproach him for not exchanging shirts with a player after the game - but I hope he will not exchange shirts with players who try to kick him for 90 minutes and them come to say 'please can I get your shirt'.
"I think that is a normal and natural reaction.
"Overall this guy is an example on the football pitch and shows you how to play football."
Wenger, however, feels Fabregas has the strength of character to silence the critics.
"People are more demanding, and Cesc has to live with that," the Arsenal manager said.
"It is not easy, but he is a very intelligent man and he will learn very quickly to cope with that.
"Cesc is 24 this year, he has played 250 games in the Premier League - at that age, it is absolutely remarkable.
"He has gone through a lot, difficult moments, but has always come out stronger - this guy is a fantastic leader."
Moyes stopped short of repeating what Fabregas was alleged to have said when he spoke to the media after Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat, stressing "they were disappointing comments from someone who is such a talented footballer".
Fabregas issued a statement last night, insisting he did not overstep the mark and held the utmost respect for all match officials, adding "many things are said in the heat of the moment".
Wenger rebuked the Everton boss for ever bringing the situation into the public domain.
"I believe that it is wrong for Moyes to come out on what he pretends to have heard in the tunnel," Wenger said.
"If I come out with what I have heard in the tunnel is the last 10 years, you would be amazed.
"I think there is a rule in our job to never come out with what is said in the heat of the moment. That usually is respected by everybody."
Wenger added: "Cesc Fabregas has not said anything to the referee, I maintain what I say.
"Cesc Fabregas has not been charged, so this story for me is over.
"If Cesc is guilty, he would have been charged. He has not been charged by the FA, there is no action against him so I don't see why we should spend any more time to defend somebody who is not guilty.
"If you play football tomorrow with your friends, you go sometimes in at half-time and say something to your friend that you would not be very proud of 24 hours later, but it is in the heat of the moment.
"For me the incident is closed."
Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, meanwhile, will miss the rest of the season as he requires surgery on a damaged shoulder.
"He has decided after having seen a few specialists that he will have surgery in Germany. It means his season is over," Wenger confirmed.
Wojciech Szczesny is set to continue in goal against Newcastle on Saturday, but midfielder Alex Song (thigh) will not feature while Theo Walcott has recovered from a minor ankle knock picked up in midweek.
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