'Special' Van Persie just like Henry -- Wenger
Published 05/12/2011 | 05:00
Their refrain did not even rhyme, but the knot of Arsenal supporters at Wigan North Western station on Saturday night could hardly stop bellowing their latest chant. "Robin van Persie, he'll score when he wants."
After this clinical four-goal demolition, the Dutchman found himself the toast not merely of the faithful but of his own team-mates, as Mikel Arteta described the freewheeling striker as a "superstar".
Van Persie turned in Theo Walcott's cross for his goal when Arsenal were already 3-0 to the good. But it was his cumulative contribution that mattered. With 32 league goals in this calendar year, he is on course to break Thierry Henry's mark of 34 in 2004, a record that encompasses a substantial part of the 'Invincibles' season.
No one is pretending that Arsenal's form yet warrants comparison with that vintage, but the Van Persie-fuelled revival has an ominous quality. Arsene Wenger's players, restored to fifth in the Premier League, are surging towards the Champions League places.
Arteta, whose swerving strike set up this victory, said of Van Persie: "His natural quality is his talent. He is so good he makes it look as though he is not trying. He is a superstar.
Besides the deft interplay between Arteta and Aaron Ramsey in midfield, there was also evidence of a growing understanding between Van Persie and Gervinho. Wenger said: "The combinations are much quicker. We want to do well and the mentality of the team is good. We are on the way back."
Wenger could not escape the readiness with which his talisman was being bracketed with Henry. "It is amazing, because they have similarities," he said. "They are not goalscorers, they are footballers we expect to create something special."
In little over a month Wenger's side have arrested their decline. They can field a weakened side in Athens for tomorrow's match against Olympiakos having already booked their place in the Champions League last 16.
The outlook is bleaker for Wigan, whose manager Roberto Martinez said: "We need to give credit to Arsenal for the manner in which they relaxed on the ball, put bodies on the line and used real composure. We got heavily punished." (© Daily Telegraph, London)