Wenger hails 'midfield general' Fabregas

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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes he has a new "midfield general" in Cesc Fabregas and he will look to the Spain international to deliver in a crucial run of matches over the next month.

Wenger has been criticised in the past for not signing an 'enforcer' - in the mould of someone like former Gunners captain Patrick Vieira who has just joined Manchester City - to ease the burden on the 22-year-old.

But Fabregas showed with yesterday's impressive performance in the 2-0 win at Bolton - where he scored his 10th league goal of the season and had a hand in the second - he is quite capable of dominating a game.

What the 5ft 9in Spaniard lacks in physical presence he makes up for with his quick thinking and abundance of talent.

And he is set to play a pivotal role in Arsenal's Barclays Premier League title bid as, after the Gunners host Bolton on Wednesday in a rearranged fixture, they then face Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in successive games.

"He looks like a real general in midfield now and of course that helps as we go into a period of important games," said Wenger, who believes all his squad have grown into genuine title contenders.

"It was a test of character (at the Reebok Stadium) and they have shown plenty - which is very good news for us.

"Over the years our strength has increased and we showed we have matured - we know when to go for the fights and we know when to put the ball down.

"Without a doubt there is still more to come because we are a young team.

"We have a very tough run of games coming up but let's be focused on the next one and keep it simple."

Victory by two clear goals over Bolton on Wednesday will take Arsenal top of the table on goal difference from Chelsea before the break in action for the FA Cup fourth round this weekend.

"It is important psychologically - not mathematically so much," Wenger added.

"We have a good opportunity to do it so we have to focus."

Defender Bacary Sagna said the significance of the victory at Bolton was not lost on the players but they knew they had to maintain their recent good league form.

Arsenal have not lost since being beaten 3-0 at home by Chelsea on November 29 - a result which left them 11 points behind Carlo Ancelotti's side.

"It (the Bolton win) was massive. We have to think about Wednesday's game against them and we have to take maximum advantage if we want to be champions," he told Arsenal TV.

"It will be good for us (to go top) but we would still have 16 games to win the Premier League - it will not be decided on Wednesday so we have to make sure we carry on winning."

Arsenal have not won any silverware since their 2005 FA Cup victory over Manchester United but Wenger claims his squad now believe they can win their first title for six years.

"When the season started, we were not all convinced in our squad maybe that we could be where we are today," said the manager.

"Now that we are there, we want to have a go."

Wenger, having lost midfielders Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey to injury prior to the Bolton game, is hopeful of seeing Denilson and Theo Walcott return from abdominal and rib problems for Wednesday's encounter at the Emirates.

He also revealed striker Robin van Persie, out since November with a long-term ankle injury, believes he can feature in the final month of the season.

"He has come back (to the training ground) and is doing as well as you can at that stage," Wenger told arsenal.com.

"He is out of his boot and walks normally but he thinks he will be playing mid-April."

Wenger has also ruled out the prospect of midfielder Jack Wilshere going on loan overseas after the 18-year-old was linked with Dutch side FC Twente, managed by former England coach Steve McClaren.

However, Owen Coyle expressed an interest in the youngster before he swapped Burnley for Bolton and the player is certain to be a topic for discussion again on Wednesday.

"I would prefer him to play in the Premier League," said Wenger on Wilshere's short-term future.

"That would be the easiest for me to observe and to come to a conclusion that he is ready to play for us next season."