Fabregas handed Arsenal captaincy

William Gallas will play for Arsenal against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday but manager Arsene Wenger said the captaincy has now passed permanently to Cesc Fabregas.

France defender Gallas was stripped of the club captaincy, fined two weeks' wages and dropped from the squad that lost 3-0 at Manchester City last weekend, the north London club's third defeat in four Premier League games, after publicly criticising his team-mates. Wenger's decision to restore Gallas to the team just three days after sending the centre-back into exile was due in part to Arsenal's woeful defensive showing at Eastlands on Saturday.

After three defeats in four matches the Gunners cannot afford another loss on Tuesday, so Wenger has little choice but to turn back to his most talented defender. However, handing the captain's armband to Fabregas showed that he wasn't prepared to let Gallas get away with his rant without a substantial punishment.

"He (Gallas) will play against Kiev. The captain will be Fabregas. It is a permanent thing," Wenger said at a press conference ahead of the Dynamo match.

Despite Gallas's demotion, Wenger insisted he hadn't lost respect for Gallas after his outburst and claimed the player still has a future at the club. "William is a player that I rate and a man I rate," Wenger said. "I have a big respect for him. He was working as captain in a very difficult media environment.

He (Gallas) will play against Kiev. The captain will be Fabregas. It is a permanent thing.
Arsene Wenger.

"He was under big pressure from the press and at some stage you do not want that high pressure to affect him or the team. But for the man and player I have a big respect. I cannot stop suggestions. For me he is a player who is committed to the club and can be even stronger as a player. He took all the problems of the team to his heart. It can be a new start for him and make him stronger."

Fabregas, 21, is only a few months older than Tony Adams was when he became Arsenal's youngest skipper in the 1980s. However, the Spanish midfielder has already become a strong voice in the Arsenal dressing room and made his desire to be captain clear in pre-season, so Wenger has no concerns about his ability to do the job at such a tender age.

"He is one of the leaders of the team but I don't believe in one man who sorts out all the problems," Wenger said. "A successful team sorts out everything together. It is important to share that leadership in the dressing room.

"I believe personally for me the captain is the voice of the club towards the outside. To be a top player in a top club you need to be mentally very strong and that means you have to be able to deal with that sort of situation."

Things are never easy for Wenger, however. With the captaincy situation resolved, he then discovered he will be without French midfielders Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby against Dynamo after the duo suffered injuries in training on Monday.