Arsene Wenger took the bold step last night of sending Aaron Ramsey on loan to Nottingham Forest despite fears over the fitness of Cesc Fabregas whose hamstring problems, Wenger admitted yesterday, have become a major concern for Arsenal.
The deal with Forest for Ramsey, who has been out for nine months after his leg was broken in a tackle with Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross, was agreed yesterday and will mean that he stays there until January. Wenger said that the 45 minutes Ramsey played in the reserves on Tuesday were "surprisingly good" but that the player needed to regain his competitive sharpness.
Fabregas, who had to withdraw from Tuesday's Champions League defeat to Braga, may not be back in time for the crucial game against Partizan Belgrade on 8 December. Speaking on Ramsey before the loan was announced yesterday, Wenger said "We need to give him back his competitiveness and that takes a few games."
Yet Wenger could not be certain when Fabregas would return. His recovery is estimated at two weeks but the Arsenal manger conceded that his staff had originally been worried about the captain before the Braga game only for the other hamstring to give way. He will miss tomorrow's game against Aston Villa as well as next week's visit by Fulham and could be a doubt for the trip to Manchester United on 13 December.
Wenger said that none "of the medical people we have yet can tell us more" about Fabregas's condition. The 23-year old suffered a similar problem against Sunderland in September which caused him to miss a month of the season.
Wenger said that he did not believe that the imperative for Arsenal to win something was contributing to Fabregas over-reaching himself. "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 – he is a guy who just has a little bit a 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 – the problem is that in the past when a player was injured he waited at home and when he could play again he played again. Today players have 10 scientists around them but they still get injured.
"I'll do what is right for him and for the club but I will listen of course to medical people – it's very difficult to assess. It is a hamstring, I remember Ryan Giggs has gone through that his whole career -– it didn't stop him form making a big career.
"Cesc is a ball giver – [Michael] Owen [who has also suffered problems with his hamstring] was more of a runner. The strengths of Owen was more based on his pace and the timing of his runs. Cesc doesn't need to sprint as much. That's what remarkable in Cesc's case. He is more of a stamina player and that's what puzzles me a little bit."
Wenger said that Emmanuel Eboué, also injured against Braga, would be out for four weeks with knee medial ligament damage. Robin van Persie came through a fitness test yesterday and is a candidate for the squad for Villa Park tomorrow.