Arsene Wenger felt he was right to gamble on the fitness of captain Cesc Fabregas after the Arsenal captain came off the bench to inspire his team to a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa which hauls the Gunners back into the Barclays Premier League title race.
The Spain midfielder had been out with a hamstring problem, but was called upon just before the hour and went on to break the deadlock at the Emirates Stadium with a superb free-kick, and then swept in a crucial second goal to wrap up the points during the closing stages ahead of Abou Diaby’s stoppage-time strike.
However, Fabregas appeared to aggravate the problem as he dashed onto Theo Walcott’s pass following a quick counter attack and was replaced soon afterwards by Aaron Ramsey.
The 22-year-old will now undergo a scan ahead of the trip to Portsmouth on Wednesday night.
Wenger said: “We do not know yet if it is a recurrence of the pull or just scar tissue.
“If it is scar tissue then it is a few days, but if it is a reoccurrence, then it is three weeks.”
The Arsenal manager, though, maintained: “I feel that I did the right thing, and would do it again.
“I put him on the bench and I knew before the game that if it was really needed, I would put him on.
“Had we been 1-0 up I would not have done it, but at the end of the day you do what you think will win the game.
“Aston Villa are a team which makes you nervy because you can be dominant and lose the game.
“You could think ’we were dominant and did not take advantage of it, so let’s be cautious’ – or you gamble a bit try to push it further and score. That is what I did.”
Arsenal are now just four points behind leaders Chelsea and with a match in hand on the sides around them – a position which looked inconceivable following their defeat here against the Blues at the end of November.
“It is a massive result for the team,” Wenger declared.
“When you look where we were a few weeks ago, credit to the team, they didn’t give up when everybody has written us off.
“We kept going and that shows that the team has shown mental strength.
“This team is talented, is hungry, has a great spirit and for me they deserve to be successful.
“However, we have not won yet anything.
“It makes it interesting now.
“We are in a strong position.
“We can have belief, but it is a long way to go and we have to keep our feet on the ground and continue to improve together.”
Villa – who had already beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool this season – looked dangerous on the break, but could not make the most of their best spell of pressure midway through the second half.
Villa boss Martin O’Neill was also quick to praise Fabregas’ performance.
“We were right in it until the free-kick, and Fabregas’ contribution was immense,” said O’Neill.
“He has had a major impact and changed the game for Arsenal completely, it was a very fine performance by a substitute.”
Villa remain fourth and O’Neill challenged his men to continue their improvement through the rest of the campaign.
“We do not have much time to reflect on it, just have to get on with it as we have a major game coming up in 48 hours time,” he said.
“You can draw all sorts of conclusions from just one game and we have to look at the bigger picture.
“You can get carried away with things and I cannot prevent people from reading into it what they want to.
“If there is anything to learn from the game, we will try to do it and have just to keep going ourselves.
“We are up there in the league because we deserve to be.
“Now it is down to us to see if we can maintain the form which put us there in the first place.”