Arsenal can cope without Fabregas – Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal have the strength in depth to cope without captain Cesc Fabregas and England winger Theo Walcott to lift the Carling Cup tomorrow – but urged his young squad not to play with the fear of defeat at Wembley.

The Gunners closed the gap on Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United to one point with a 1-0 win over Stoke on Wednesday night, but it came at some cost as Fabregas limped off with a hamstring problem and Walcott left on a stretcher after turning his ankle.

While Walcott now faces a race to be fit for the second leg of the Champions League clash against Barcelona in the Nou Camp, Wenger expects Fabregas to only be a short-term absentee.

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Although the loss of Arsenal’s talisman is of course a major blow, Wenger believes there is no reason why his side cannot claim a first trophy since 2005 if they play their own game rather than worry about the occasion.

“Cesc is sad and disappointed of course, but it could have been worse, the injury is a very small one,” Wenger said.

“We have so many targets in front of us, it is important that he is not out for longer.

“Now what is important is the team and the squad focuses on the game we want to play on Sunday. Ideally you want everybody fit, but before the season starts you know you can have some players injured.

“We can deal with the fact that Cesc will not be there, Walcott will not be there and, of course, (Thomas) Vermaelen will not be there.

“When you look at the squad we have and the number of players we have available, we have enough quality players to deal with that.”

However, Wenger added: “What is important when you go into a final is that you give absolutely everything. You do not want to go into a final with fear that if you lose, it will be dramatic.

“What you want is to go into the final and give everything to win it and that is how we approach the game.”

Arsenal are certainly in a consistent run of form as they battle on four fronts, with a Carling Cup semi-final, first leg loss at Ipswich their only defeat since being beaten away at Manchester United on December 13.

“We have belief, confidence and are committed,” Wenger said. “We have a good bond, a good confidence level and are highly determined to do well on all fronts.

“What will be vital for our success is that we focus well on the next game and give the biggest importance to the next game – that is the final game in the Carling Cup and we will give everything to be successful. There is a good feeling in the camp, we are in a good run, on a very strong run.”

Wenger feels his latest generation are ready to come of age.

“This team is a young team. They have the advantage of a team that has grown together,” he added.

“If you look at the predictions at the start of the season, we are well over the predictions of the specialists.

“What is important is not what happened in the last five years, but what we can do now. Victory at Wembley can help us to have more confidence for the other trophies that we go for.

“We know what we want to do, we want to dominate the game, have possession of the ball and be faithful to our game and give everything to win it.”

While Arsenal may be favourites to lift the trophy, Wenger will certainly not be taking the threat of Birmingham lightly.

“Birmingham are a team I respect a lot because they have always consistent behaviour in their motivational level,” he said.

“They have stabilised the club in the Premier League and they are now in the Carling Cup final.

“We will face a Birmingham team that is highly determined to do well. We expect them to be at their best and that means a big performance from our side will be required.”

Arsene Wenger maintains there is nothing wrong with Arsenal signing promising teenager Jon Toral from Barcelona. Barca president Sandro Rosell described the Gunners’ pursuit of the 16-year-old as “a little immoral”, with the youngster set to follow current captain Cesc Fabregas from the Nou Camp to north London.

Reports in Spain suggest Arsenal paid around £300,000 for Toral, who was free to sign with any professional club.

Wenger, however, denied there was any issue with Arsenal’s policy, the Premier League club having also signed both Fran Merida, now at Atletico Madrid, and 18-year-old centre-half Ignasi Miquel, who made his first-team debut in the FA Cup tie at Leyton Orient, from Spain in the past.

“You forget that this boy is English,” said Wenger.

“He has an English passport, his mother is from England and hopefully he will join us in the summer,” Wenger said.

“We have players who leave us for other professional clubs in England.

“We have just done what is legal.

“I love Barcelona, I love Catalonia – I have nothing against them, but when a player who is half English and Spanish wants to join us, why should we turn him down if its all legal?

“If we have done something illegal, I will say ‘sorry, my boy, we cannot do it’.”