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Alonso could be Fab for Gunners as Villa await

Arsene Wenger is expected to revive his interest in Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso as soon as the January transfer window opens to compensate for the loss of club captain Cesc Fabregas.

sports Updated: Dec 25, 2008 10:56 IST

Arsene Wenger is expected to revive his interest in Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso as soon as the January transfer window opens to compensate for the loss of club captain Cesc Fabregas.

Spain midfielder Fabregas will be sidelined until April, with partially ruptured medial ligaments and his absence will been keenly felt at Villa Park in Birmingham on Friday.

Aston Villa, currently third in the table, are the club posing the biggest threat to Arsenal's perennial occupation of a top four place under Wenger.

They will now be looking to complete their first double over the Gunners since the inception of the Premier League and open up a six point gap.

Arsenal's title chances without Fabregas, who will miss 25 games if the gloomiest predictions regarding his length of absence are correct, could have to be salvaged by a move for his international colleague.

Alonso was the subject of a 14 million pounds deadline day bid in August, but Arsenal manager Wenger refused to meet Liverpool's valuation of 17 million pounds and the deal collapsed.

Ironically, it was Alonso's tackle in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool last weekend that has created the void in Arsenal's midfield and Wenger is also considering Barcelona's Yaya Toure, Juventus youngster Sebastian Giovinco and Stephane Mbia of Rennes, who claims to have been the subject of a failed 11th-hour bid from Arsenal in August.

New Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis will take up his post on January 1 and brings with him great experience in player contract negotiations from America. Wenger is being encouraged by the Arsenal board to spend, the Frenchman saying: "We are now more likely to buy in January."

Alonso is close friends with Spain team-mate Fabregas, who said pre-season that Alonso's possible arrival in London "would be perfect - I'd love it".

Inaki Ibanez, Alonso's agent, has left the door open to a move by stating ambiguously: "We will see what happens in January."

Arsenal will also be without the suspended Emmanuel Adebayor for their trip to the Midlands.

Villa are looking for their first home win over Arsenal since 1998, but manager Martin O'Neill believes Wenger has not yet given up on the title despite the Gunners currently being eight points adrift of leaders Liverpool.

"It is interesting that despite the fact we have got three points over them at the moment, because of their past they consider themselves not out of the Championship, whereas we don't consider that," O'Neill said.

He added: "It is an interesting mind-set which I think takes a few years to get and also needs a history of winning.

"You could say they haven't won anything for a year or two but they have a history of winning over the last decade so nothing is out of sight for them."

Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar will be fit to partner Curtis Davies at the back for Villa.

But O'Neill is awaiting the outcome of Danish defender Martin Laursen's scan on a knee injury while Norwegian striker John Carew has been ordered to rest his injured back for another month after seeing a specialist on Monday.