By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has defended Cesc Fabregas against suggestions that the Spaniard is struggling for form.
The 21-year-old has been the fulcrum of Arsenal's midfield since the departure of Patrick Vieira in 2005 and was named PFA Young Player of the Year in April. He added goals to his game last term, netting 13 times in all competitions, and capped a stellar campaign by winning Euro 2008 with Spain.
Fabregas' goals have dried up this season and some argue that the summer departures of Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb have affected the Spaniard's contribution. Wenger dismissed those claims at his pre-match press conference.
"Personally I don't see any drop in his performance," said the Frenchman. "At the moment that's what people say, but I don't believe so.
"I believe he is trying even harder but once you become a leader like him and the team doesn't win, you are the first in the spotlight. Before, it was Patrick Vieira. When the team didn't win, it was Vieira... and you forget about Fabregas. Now he has a lot of responsibility and as soon as you don't win, it's
'Oh, it's Fabregas. He's not as good as before.' I don't think so.
"He will get a few more [goals], don't worry. That is as well linked to the success of the team, and to confidence."
Fabregas is often the subject of transfer speculation, even though the player himself has repeated time and again his desire to stay at Emirates Stadium. Wenger insists that the Spaniard's commitment is not in doubt, even if Arsenal have failed to land a trophy for three years.
"You cannot every day question his commitment," said the Frenchman. "He has come out how many times and said he wants to stay here, that he is happy here? The question is created more by people who want to create unrest than by him.
"He has won the European Championship at 21. I will find you plenty of people in England who have not won that. He has also won the FA Cup and he's only 21. You compare with what [Frank] Lampard and [Steven] Gerrard had won at 21, you will see he is not behind them."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 7 Nov 2008