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Wenger hails 'leader' Fabregas


Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has defended captain Cesc Fabregas as a "fantastic leader" and is convinced the Spain international can drive the Gunners on to success.

The 23-year-old has once again found his temperament rather than talent under question this week after Everton boss David Moyes claimed Fabregas should have been sent off for his comments to match officials at half-time during Arsenal's 2-1 win over the Merseysiders at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

"Cesc has gone through a lot, difficult moments, but has always come out stronger - this guy is a fantastic leader," Wenger said.

"He is 24 this year, he has played 250 games in the Premier League - at that age, it is absolutely remarkable. People are more demanding, and Cesc has to live with that. It is not easy, but he is a very intelligent man and he will learn very quickly to cope with that."

Fabregas is no stranger to controversy. In March 2009, the Spain international was accused of spitting at Hull assistant Brian Horton at the end of their stormy FA Cup quarter-final - a charge of which he was subsequently cleared by the FA.

Three weeks ago, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said the Arsenal skipper had been "clever" in winning a penalty which saw Gary Caldwell sent off, and then on Tuesday night Fabregas himself felt the need to use his programme notes to clear up a Twitter row with Huddersfield's Anthony Pilkington over the swapping of shirts after their FA Cup fourth-round win.

"We are long enough in the job to know that somebody picks on you for a while, and you are in the heat of the moment," Wenger added. "But for me what is the most important is the player behaves well.

"When Cesc is on the pitch, he tries to play football - I cannot say everybody who plays against him tries to do that. Overall this guy is an example on the football pitch and shows you how to play football."

The FA now consider the matter closed, although Everton could yet make a formal complaint.

Fabregas issued a statement on Wednesday night, insisting he did not overstep the mark and held the utmost respect for all match officials, adding "many things are said in the heat of the moment", while Wenger yesterday rebuked Everton manager Moyes for going public with "what he pretends to have heard in the tunnel".