Fabregas dismisses age as an excuse

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The Independent Online

Cesc Fabregas insists Arsenal's young Gunners cannot use age as an excuse should they fail to deliver a trophy this season.

Following successive defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea, Arsene Wenger's side breathed new life into their Barclays Premier League campaign with victory over Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.

Other results went the Gunners' way, as the top two both failed to win leaving the deficit to leaders Chelsea at six points.

Wenger has long championed the potential of his young side, and believes their time will come, reflecting after defeat at Stamford Bridge: "Chelsea are more experienced - they are 29, we are 23."

Fabregas, 22, feels Arsenal must show their maturity sooner rather than later.

"As a team, we need to be stronger," the Arsenal captain declared.

"We can't hide behind people saying we are too young or we have injuries. We just have to compete.

"People say you must learn from your mistakes, but you learn how to play football when you are 12, 13, 14, 15. You don't learn these things when you are 25.

"Of course, you can still improve, always improve, but the basics must be there.

"If you play for Arsenal, it is because you have to have these attributes. That is why I do not believe age is an excuse."

Fabregas continued: "In the past few years, we have been doing very well, but whenever it comes to important moments, maybe we haven't been up where we need to be.

"We have always tried to play our football, but the goals we have conceded lately have come from defensive mistakes.

"Of course, we are a team, so, at the end of the day, we all take responsibility for it together.

"It is a team sport and we don't want to let anyone down, so we will keep doing our best."

Veteran goalkeeper Manuel Almunia believes improving "small points" is all that is needed to see the Gunners become genuine challengers once again.

Fabregas agreed, adding: "We can keep playing the same style of football, but it is the mentality that will determine whether you win trophies or not. We need an extra edge in these big games.

"We want to do well and get better and better, that is for sure.

"But, remember, these are teams that have won things recently and, in terms of winning trophies, are more advanced than we are."

Arsenal have a break in action this weekend following their FA Cup exit at Stoke, so will have some extra preparation time ahead of the resumption of Champions League action in Porto.

Midfielder Alex Song (knee) and Russian winger Andrey Arshavin (hamstring) are both doubts, but Croatia striker Eduardo could return.

Wenger, meanwhile, feels there is plenty to learn from the experiences of the past month.

"Maybe against Man United and Chelsea we wanted to win the games too quickly and exposed ourselves to the counter attack," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online.

"We were a bit more cautious and patient against Liverpool.

"We know that if we are 0-0 at half-time we have a chance to win any game."

Wenger continued: "We look back with a massive disappointment and massive optimism as well. Disappointment because we did not get the points we wanted, but when you watch the games again, you have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

"In patches, we dominated both games, and are a very young side which you feel will mature quickly.

"What is down to us know is how quickly we learn from our mistakes.

"It looks to me that against Liverpool, we have shown we learn quickly."

Wenger maintains Arsenal - whose fixture list looks somewhat less daunting from now on - are still very much in the hunt.

"The teams who are six points behind us will not give up, so why should we give up if we are six points behind the leader? It would be absolutely crazy," the Gunners boss declared.

"For all pundits, this league is very difficult to predict - but anybody can be wrong.

"It is more open than ever and very exciting as well.

"For us, it is important to keep the belief and resurrect our hopes, so let's go on now and be consistent."

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