By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger believes that Cesc Fabregas has been singled-out by opponents - but he expects his captain to be stronger for the experience.
The Spaniard has been in the news this week after Everton manager David Moyes accused him of making ‘unrepeatable’ comments to referee Lee Mason at the end of the first half of Tuesday's game at Emirates Stadium.
The incident was not mentioned in Mason's match report and Fabregas issued a statement on Arsenal.com on Wednesday to express his respect for all officials. The captain also used his programme notes recently to clear the air over a reported altercation with Huddersfield's Anthony Pilkington.
Wenger was asked by reporters at his pre-match press conference whether Fabregas had been the victim of a 'witch-hunt'. "Yes," replied the Frenchman. "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.
"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.
"For example, some people reproach him for not exchanging shirts with a player after the game - but I hope he will not exchange shirts with players who try to kick him for 90 minutes and then come to say 'please can I get your shirt?' I think that is a normal and natural reaction.
"Overall this guy is an example on the football pitch and shows you how to play football."
Fabregas recently entered his third year as Arsenal captain and, according to his manager, the 23-year-old is getting stronger and stronger.
"People are more demanding, and Cesc has to live with that," said Wenger. "It is not easy, but he is a very intelligent man and he will learn very quickly to cope with that.
"Cesc is 24 this year, he has played 250 games in the Premier League - at that age, it is absolutely remarkable. He has gone through a lot, difficult moments, but has always come out stronger - this guy is a fantastic leader."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 3 Feb 2011