Wenger hoping for good news on Fabregas

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger hopes he will not have to be without Cesc Fabregas for too long after a latest injury setback following the Arsenal captain's inspirational performance against Aston Villa.

The Spain midfielder had been sidelined with a hamstring problem, and so Wenger erred on the side of caution by naming him on the bench for yesterday's showdown with fourth-placed Villa.

Yet with the game deadlocked at Emirates Stadium, Fabregas was called upon just before the hour and went on to net a superb free-kick, and then swept in a crucial second goal to wrap up the points during the closing stages ahead of Abou Diaby's stoppage-time strike.

However, the Gunners captain appeared to aggravate the problem as he dashed onto Theo Walcott's pass following a quick counter-attack and was replaced soon afterwards by Aaron Ramsey.

The 22-year-old will now undergo a scan ahead of the trip to Portsmouth on Wednesday night.

"Cesc is happy we won the game, but he is concerned about his hamstring," Wenger said.

"We do not know yet if it is a recurrence of the pull or just scar tissue.

"If it is scar tissue then it is a few days, but if it is a reoccurrence, then it is three weeks."

However, Wenger defended his selection policy, insisting it was a gamble worth taking.

"I feel that I did the right thing, and would do it again," he said.

"I put him on the bench and I knew before the game that if it was really needed, I would put him on.

"Had we been 1-0 up I would not have done it, but at the end of the day you do what you think will win the game.

"Aston Villa are a team who make you nervy because you can be dominant and lose the game.

"You could think 'we were dominant and did not take advantage of it, so let's be cautious' - or you gamble a bit try to push it further and score. That is what I did."

Arsenal are now just four points behind leaders Chelsea, and with a match in hand on the sides around them - a position which looked inconceivable following their defeat here against the Blues at the end of November.

"It is a massive result for the team," Wenger declared.

"When you look where we were a few weeks ago, credit to the team, they didn't give up when everybody has written us off."

Villa - who had already beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool this season - looked dangerous on the break, but could not make the most of their best spell of pressure midway through the second half.

Martin O'Neill challenged his men to continue their improvement through the rest of the campaign - starting with tomorrow's clash against Liverpool.

"You can draw all sorts of conclusions from just one game, and we have to look at the bigger picture," he said.

"We are up there in the league because we deserve to be.

"Now it is down to us to see if we can maintain the form which put us there in the first place."