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Nov 24, 2008

Fabregas replaces Gallas as Arsenal skipper

William Gallas will line up with his Arsenal team-mates when they face Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, but not as captain.

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the 31-year-old has been permanently replaced as the Gunners skipper by 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas.

The controversial defender was axed from the trip to Manchester City on Saturday, which Arsene Wenger's men lost 3-0 as their Premier League title hopes were dealt another blow, after publicly making critical remarks about the team and questioning their fighting spirit.

However, Wenger - who named goalkeeper Manuel Almunia his captain at Eastlands - maintained former Chelsea defender Gallas, 31, still had a future at the club.

Although the Arsenal manager refused to discuss the reasons behind the player's absence, Wenger confirmed Gallas would be reinstated, but not in a leadership role on Tuesday.

''William will play against Kiev, but the captain of the team will be Fabregas,'' said the Arsenal manager. ''I do not think I have to especially explain why I make the decisions, but it is a permanent thing.''

Wenger felt it had been an ''interesting'' few days for Arsenal, whose season is threatening to unravel.

He said: ''When you do not win, nobody jumps off the roof, but the frustration does kick in. It is a good opportunity now for us to show we have strength and ability - you know how it works, you go from fantastic to a catastrophe, but real life is somewhere in between.''

Wenger insisted: ''So even if we are at the moment frustrated, it is not all doom and gloom. We have a strong belief in our ability and we have a good opportunity to show we care about the club and that we can qualify tomorrow.''

Wenger, though, maintained the future of the club was in safe hands, led by 21-year-old Spain international Fabregas.

The Arsenal manager said: ''I believe the captain is the voice of the club towards the outside, and is one of the leaders of the team.

''However, I do not believe in just one man in the dressing room who sorts out all of the problems. A successful team is a shared leadership inside the dressing room. He (Fabregas) will be one of the leaders, but not the only one.''

Fabregas told Arsenal's official website: "It is a great honour for me to captain one of the biggest clubs in the world.

"It is a proud moment. I know it's a big responsibility but together with my team-mates, I know we have the spirit and commitment to get back to winning ways and fulfil our potential.''

Wenger continues to keep the faith this group can produce the results needed to compete for honours.

He said: ''It is a learning trade, to be a top player in a top club, you need to be mentally very strong and to deal with these types of concentration. We have quite a good way to protect the players here and they know how much we believe in them and how much confidence we have in them.

''My trust in my players has not be affected. I have to stand up for my players in the criticism we get, but we are a strong team and that will come out.

''I am focused to do things well, the right way. I am strong enough to let people have opinions, and do what I feel is right.''

Gallas arrived from Chelsea as part of the deal which took full-back Ashley Cole to Stamford Bridge in August 2006, and Wenger insists he has no regrets about making the outspoken Frenchman Arsenal captain following the departure of Thierry Henry.

''William is a player and a man whom I rate, I have a big respect for him,'' he said.

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