Arsene Wenger claims Cesc Fabregas, his Arsenal captain, is the subject of a witch hunt.
According to Everton manager David Moyes, the Spain midfielder made unrepeatable comments to match officials as the players went down the tunnel at half-time of their Premier League clash at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, which should have earned him a red card, when Arsenal trailed to a goal which both managers agreed should not have been given due to offside.
The Football Association have confirmed referee Lee Mason did not include the incident in his report, while further claims of what Fabregas had said emerged this morning.
Fabregas, 23, is no stranger to controversy, having been accused of spitting at Hull assistant Brian Horton at the end of their stormy FA Cup quarter-final in March 2009 — of which he was subsequently cleared by the FA — and had used his programme notes for the Everton match to clear up a Twitter row with Huddersfield’s Anthony Pilkington over the swapping of shirts after their FA Cup fourth-round win on Sunday.
Wenger is in no doubt his captain is being singled out.
“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,” he said.
“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 them 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.”
Wenger, however, feels Fabregas has the strength of character to silence the critics.
“People are more demanding, and Cesc has to live with that,” the Arsenal manager added. “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.”
Meanwhile, Wenger has revealed that Lukasz Fabianski, the Gunners goalkeeper, will miss the rest of the season as he requires surgery on a damaged shoulder.
“He has decided after having seen a few specialists that he will have surgery in Germany. It means his season is over,” Wenger confirmed.
Wojciech Szczesny is set to continue in goal against Newcastle on Saturday, but Alex Song (thigh) will not feature while Theo Walcott has recovered from a minor ankle knock picked up in midweek.