Fabregas facing race against time for South Africa
ARSENAL have confirmed that captain Cesc Fabregas suffered a stress fracture of his right leg in the 2-2 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday night and will not play again this season. The 22-year-old underwent a scan yesterday afternoon which revealed the extent of the damage.
Doctors say the Spain international will be out for a minimum of six weeks, which makes him a major doubt for the World Cup finals as the deadline for the initial squad of 30 players falls on May 16.
An Arsenal statement read: "Following a scan this afternoon, the club can confirm that Cesc Fabregas has suffered a small crack in his right fibula as a result of the collision with Barcelona defender Carles Puyol during Wednesday evening's match. As a consequence, Cesc will miss the remainder of the domestic campaign as he will be out of action for at least six weeks."
Arsenal also revealed William Gallas and Andrei Arshavin would both be out for three weeks after picking up calf strains on Wednesday and should miss four games each.
Fabregas suffered his injury winning the penalty from which he scored Arsenal's equaliser against his former club. He played on, despite being in clear pain, as Arsenal had already used all their substitutes. It could conceivably be his last appearance for Arsenal, with Barcelona likely to make a serious bid for him in the summer.
The injury to Fabregas marred a spectacular night at the Emirates. Theo Walcott, who came off the bench to score Arsenal's first goal, described watching Barcelona's dazzling first-half display as like "someone was holding them with a PS3 controller".
Barcelona bewitched Arsenal for 45 minutes, but could not find a way past Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal. Pep Guardiola's side enjoyed 71pc of the possession during a remarkable footballing demonstration, played at a relentless pace and tempo.
Walcott, who impressed in front of the England manager Fabio Capello, said: "As a young player growing up and still learning about the game, it was a fantastic experience just to watch some world-class players."
Arsenal fought back after going 2-0 down to two second-half goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Walcott admitted that in previous years that might not have happened. "To see us go 2-0 down a year or two years ago, we might have let our heads drop and there would have been a different result. But the experiences of the last few years -- such as the loss to Manchester United last season (in the Champions League semi-finals) -- showed, most definitely."
Almunia had a mixed night, pulling off a string of fine first-half saves before being caught out for Ibrahimovic's first goal.
"It was my busiest game for Arsenal," he said. "They created a lot of chances and it was hard but we showed a lot of spirit in the last 20 minutes and we battled back to get a draw.
"With it being 2-2 we have a better chance of getting through than we did when it was 2-0, but we'll have to show more character and creativity and not give Barcelona the ball as much."
The night also marked Thierry Henry's return to the club where he scored 226 goals in 369 games. The Frenchman thanked the Arsenal fans for their tribute at the final whistle. Henry said: "There was a lot of emotion. I would like to thank them. It was amazing. I have great love for the club and I think the fans -- you saw -- still love me."
Following the blow of losing Fabregas, Arsene Wenger was more upbeat about striker Robin van Persie. The Arsenal manager said: "The latest news on Robin is very promising, but we have to wait two more weeks to integrate him fully into first-team training."