By Matt Fortune

Arsène Wenger believes the absence of Cesc Fabregas and Kolo Toure has allowed some very capable deputies to show their first-team credentials.

The Spaniard has played just 90 minutes for the Gunners in pre-season since returning from his country’s successful Euro 2008 campaign. Toure has had similar match-time due to illness and a hip problem. This has given free rein to other players to shine in a competitive environment. Wenger believes the growth shown by those individuals is being overlooked.

Brazilian Denilson has been particularly impressive in the run-up to the season. He also contributed a dynamic performance and a superb assist in Saturday’s 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

“Not only do we make results but we develop players as well,” Wenger said after the weekend win. “At the start of the season it's always very difficult to assess how good [players like] Denilson and Johan Djourou will be. They can only develop if they play.

“It's a tricky situation. People want to see big names and they want to see good young players as well.”

Of course any side in the world would be weaker without Fabregas. Sections of the media suggested the 21-year-old’s absence was the reason for Arsenal’s failure to kill off West Brom on Saturday. Wenger disagrees.

“I believe that, when everyone is sharp, we will have much more invention,” he countered. “But you always want a player like Fabregas to be in there because he gives you the quality of the pass. He should be fit for the second Champions League game [against FC Twente on August 27].”

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18 Aug 2008