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Wenger backs Arsenal to cope without injured stars

sports Updated: Feb 25, 2011 22:52 IST
AFP
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Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can cope without Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott when the injury-hit Gunners face Birmingham in the League Cup final on Sunday.

Wenger's side go into the first major showpiece of the season at Wembley rocked by a double injury blow that leaves them without Spain midfielder Fabregas and England winger Walcott.

Scans on the hamstring strain Fabregas suffered against Stoke in mid-week showed that the problem is not too serious, but Wenger is not prepared to risk his captain aggravating the problem.

Walcott, stretchered off with an ankle injury in the Stoke game, will be sidelined for up to three weeks.

Both stars have played key roles in Arsenal's impressive run of one defeat in their last 17 matches in all competitions, but Wenger is convinced his team will be able to adapt in their absence.

"Fabregas won't play because he is injured and you cannot play football when you are injured," Wenger told reporters on Friday.

"He is sad and disappointed of course but it could have been worse. The injury is a very small one. He will be out for one or two games maybe.

"Walcott will be out for two to three weeks with an ankle problem. I would say today it is very unlikely he will be fit for the second leg of the Barcelona game.

"Ideally you want everyone fit but we can deal with the fact that Cesc will not be there, the fact Walcott will not be there and of course (centre-back Thomas) Vermaelen will not be there.

"If you look at the number of quality players we have available, we can deal with that.

"We have so many targets in front of us. What I believe is important now is that the team focuses on the game we play on Sunday.

"We have shown we can cope with injuries over the last three months. We have the belief, confidence and determination to get over the last hurdle in the League Cup."

There was one piece of good news for Wenger on the injury front as in-form Dutch forwrd Robin van Persie, who missed the Stoke match with a hamstring strain, will return to captain the team.

Regardless of who features in Wenger's team, the Arsenal boss knows his side are expected to end their six-year wait to win a major trophy.

The Gunners, who last lifted silverware in 2005 after a penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final, are starting to reap the rewards of Wenger's faith in his young players.

The likes of van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Gael Clichy, Johan Djourou and Alex Song have grown up together after joining the club as youngsters and Wenger believes that special bond is a big asset.

"It is a young but hungry team. They are focused and respectful. There is a common understanding," Wenger said.

"The two main characteristics are they have a great bond and focus. It is a pleasure to work with them.

"They have all been educated together and they have the advantage of growing up together."

In the past Wenger has used the League Cup as a training ground for his young players, but success in a competition he has often derided could prove the catalyst for the team to finally fulfil their potential.

The Gunners hold a 2-1 lead against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League, trail Premier League leaders Manchester United by just one point and are still in the FA Cup.

Wenger admits the challenge for more significant prizes would be enhanced by beating Birmingham.

"It is not important what happened in the last five years -- it is what happens now," Wenger said.

"There is a good feeling in the camp of course because we are on a very strong run and a win can help us have more confidence for the other trophies we go for.

"You gain belief with results. When you are young, you don't know how good you are. You make mistakes and improve."

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