x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Wenger's sub tactic pays off

Arsene Wenger felt his decision to bring Cesc Fabregas off the bench was vindicated, despite seeing the two-goal substitute limp off with a recurrence of his hamstring injury.

Arsene Wenger felt his decision to bring Cesc Fabregas off the bench was vindicated, despite seeing the two-goal substitute limp off with a recurrence of his hamstring injury. The Arsenal captain transformed yesterday's encounter against their top four rivals with two goals in 27 minutes. But the Spanish schemer was then taken off through injury and is a major doubt for Arsenal's game against Portsmouth on Wednesday.

"We knew before the game it was not perfect," said Wenger. "We will see if we have long regrets or short regrets. But I would do it again. Sometimes you follow your instincts in a game. 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." Wenger hailed the Villa victory as a "massive result". When the Gunners lost 3-0 to Chelsea in November, Arsenal were 11 points behind the leaders. But four wins from five league games leaves them four behind Chelsea with a game in hand.

"Credit to the team, they didn't give up when everybody has written us off," said the manager. "We kept going and that shows that the team has shown mental strength. "I believe this team is talented, is hungry, has a great spirit and for me they deserve to be successful." The result meant the end of Villa's own five-match league winning run. We were right in it until the opening goal from Fabregas," said the Villa manager Martin O'Neill.

"His contribution was immense. He's turned the game for Arsenal completely. It was a very fine performance. "You can draw all sorts of conclusions from one game, but by the end of January we will know where we stand and if we are good enough to be in the top four." Villa are back in action tomorrow when they host Liverpool. akhan@thenational.ae