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English Premiership

Wenger to strengthen war chest

LONDON, December 28 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could launch a January transfer window raid to keep the Gunners' Premier League title campaign on track after inspirational skipper Cesc Fabregas picked up a worrying injury.Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday, inspired by two goals from substitute Fabregas, left Wenger’s team just four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand over their London rivals.

However, some of the shine of victory over fourth-placed Villa was taken off by the sight of Fabregas going off with what appeared to be a recurrence of a hamstring injury sustained while scoring his and Arsenal’s second goal.

Wenger said he was now pondering bringing in new players in January, particularly a striker as Arsenal’s Dutch forward Robin van Persie is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.

"I’ve said we will keep our eyes open and if a good opportunity turns up we will do it."

But he admitted he might have to broaden his horizons following a match where Fabregas, who replaced fellow midfielder Denilson (back injury) was only on the field for 28 minutes.

"I will have to look maybe as well at midfielders and how big the damage is," Wenger said. "If we lose Denilson and Fabregas we will be short there."

Wenger said Fabregas could be out for up to three weeks and admitted it was a gamble to use him as a second-half substitute against Villa.

The Spain international transformed the match after coming on in the 57th minute, firing Arsenal in front with a superb free-kick from some 25 yards eight minutes later before crowning a fine team move with a cool finish.

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He then had to go off before Abou Diaby completed victory with a stoppage-time goal.

Wenger defended his decision to bring on Fabregas by saying: "We had missed a few chances before he came on, we could have been up already.

"But of course he adds some creativity in your game. And at that moment I felt that was needed.

"If you can prove to me we would have won the game without him coming on the pitch, I was wrong. But we’ll never check that," the Frenchman added.

"We were dominant and didn’t take advantage so you say ‘let’s be cautious’ or you gamble a bit, try to push it further and score. That’s what I did.

"He (Fabregas) is happy we won the game but concerned about his hamstring.

"We don’t know if it’s a recurrence of the pull or just scar tissue. We’ll know more about it tomorrow (Monday). If it’s scar tissue it’s a few days, if it’s a recurrence it’s three weeks."

Despite the concern over Fabregas, Wenger believes his team are well-placed for a title challenge.

"It makes it interesting now," he said. "We are in a strong position.

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"We can have belief but it’s a long way to go and we have to keep our feet on the ground and continue to improve together."

Villa manager Martin O’Neill was frustrated at the way his side capitulated but insisted ahead of Tuesday’s clash at home to Liverpool that the true test of their top four credentials was still to come.

"We are up there in the league because we deserve to be and it is up to us now to see if we can maintain the form which put us there in the first place," said O’Neill, whose side faltered last term after a similarly promising start.

"The end of January, after the FA Cup and League Cup matches, will give us a pretty good indication of whether we can sustain it to be in this company.

"We got ourselves into a decent position last year, and could not carry it through, that is what we have to be looking at again."

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