Arsene Wenger has hailed Robin van Persie’s transformation into a world-class predator and claimed that the Dutchman has had to teach himself the art of goal scoring in a similar fashion to Thierry Henry.
The Arsenal captain has now scored 18 goals in all competitions this season and is closing in on Alan Shearer’s record 36 goal tally for a calendar year; a remarkable achievement from a player who up until last season seemed to score in streaks rather than consistently.
While Henry began his career as a winger, Van Persie looked destined to follow in the footsteps of Dennis Bergkamp by playing as a support striker in a 4-4-2 formation. Pleased with the way both his signings have made use of their creative qualities to hone their ability in and around the penalty box, Wenger told assembled media after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Wigan:
“They have similarities, Thierry and Robin. At the start they are not goalscorers, they are football players who you expect to create something special. You do not think they have to score so many goals, they added that to their game.
“Someone like Alan Shearer was a goalscorer first but they are more link players Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry. They are creative players and not just on the end of things.
“Even at the start of the season, people ask ‘why is Robin playing centre forward, he is not a centre forward’. But both have the intelligence to be in the right place at the right moment.
Pinpointing Van Persie’s ravenous appetite to consume and play football, and paying lip service to the frustration he has felt after years plagued with injury, Wenger continued:
“When you see the player that arrived and the player he is today then you have to give him a lot of credit. His transformation has been exceptional.
“We have all played football because we wanted to enjoy it. He is a football lover. He watches tapes and knows all about the game. Then he wants to be on the pitch. Maybe he has been so frustrated by being out so many times that he rates what a chance it is to play for Arsenal
“He has had an outstanding season so let’s hope we can keep him fit. He has played I think 48 games in the calendar year. That is the most he has played.
“He is talented and now he is the leader of the Club. At a club like Arsenal that is not easy and he does it remarkably well.”
Van Persie is expected to play no part in tomorrow night’s Champions League dead rubber in Greece with Arsene Wenger opting to rest his star man ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Everton.