Fabregas running on empty

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts that sooner or later he will have to give Cesc Fabregas a break.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts that sooner or later he will have to give Cesc Fabregas a break.

The brilliant 19-year-old midfielder has appeared in all of the Gunners’ Barclays Premiership and Champions League games this season.

Suspension kept him out of the FA Cup third-round victory at Liverpool, but he was back in the thick of the action for the midweek Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Tottenham.

Bolton travel to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow for a fourth-round FA Cup meeting, before the Gunners welcome Spurs for the Carling Cup second leg next week.

With European action resuming at the end of February, it is set to be a hectic schedule for Arsenal, who last weekend beat Premiership leaders Manchester United to remain in touch with the top three.

Fabregas is happy enough to continue his role at the heart of the team whenever asked.

Wenger, though, remains acutely aware of the need to protect one of his key men against burnout.

The Arsenal manager admitted: “I do not know whether Cesc will play or not yet.

“He will be on the bench or in the team.

“But I am tempted to count one game out for him, either on Sunday or Wednesday.”

As several other first-choice players are struggling with injury, not to mention the suspension of midfielder Gilberto, Wenger admits he has little room for manoeuvre in team selection.

However, goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is set to be given another breather, with Manuel Almunia continuing to deputise.

Wenger believes the current fixture pile-up could present the perfect opportunity for Julio Baptista – who netted a brace at White Hart Lane to make his mark in the side.

The 25-year-old Brazilian is only on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season, having arrived at the Emirates Stadium during the last transfer window as part of the deal which took winger Jose Antonio Reyes to Spain.

That move could yet be made permanent.

Wenger said: “What he is achieving will help to make my mind up.

“He scored four at Liverpool, two at Tottenham – you could do worse.

“It took him time to adapt, but it is amazing – suddenly ’boom’ one goal is in.

“That is him. He has a little bit of the qualities which [Robert] Pires had, to turn up in the box – and always you need these kinds of players.”

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