Gunners can cope without influential skipper

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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 - 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.

Wenger said: "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."

While Walcott now faces a battle 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.

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."


Wenger also maintained there is nothing wrong with Arsenal signing promising teenager Jon Toral from Barcelona.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell described the Gunners' pursuit of the 16-year-old as "a little immoral", with the youngster set to follow Fabregas from the Nou Camp to north London.

The Arsenal boss added: "You forget that this boy is English. He has an English passport, his mother is from England and hopefully he will join us in the summer. We have players who leave us for other professional clubs in England. We have done what just is legal."

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League Cup
Francesc Fabregas

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