Arsene Wenger says the influence of his captain, Robin van Persie, and his deputy, Thomas Vermaelen, has brought a new energy to the Gunners dressing room.
In contrast to some of his predecessors, van Persie has taken the role of captain by the scruff of the neck. As well as Robin organising off-field events and get-togethers for the players, his wife, Bouchra, has brought many of the players partners together, between them fostering a real sense of team and club spirit.
And the manager is delighted at how Robin has embraced the role, saying, “Robin has grown into a great, great player, a great leader.
“Robin has taken his role very seriously and has become not only a great player but a great leader for the team and credit to him for that. And Thomas is vice-captain so we are bit under the Dutch influence.”
Yeah, Thomas is Belgian but having to come to us from Ajax we know what he means. Wenger also thinks that last season’s game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, when van Persie was ridiculously red carded, will provide motivation for the skipper as we prepare to face AC Milan tonight.
“Yes, I believe that was hugely frustrating. I believe as well when he was sent off that he didn’t deserve to be.
“It was also a big frustration as he wasn’t prepared to play that game. Everybody said he could not play because of his knee problem. I decided very late to play him. He had to dig deep as well maybe to play the game. But this year he is in a much better condition.”
At the other end, Thomas Vermaelen will face an old Ajax teammate, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and knows it’s going to be a big test despite the fact he’s more than familiar with his opponent.
“I played with him a lot of times when I was at Ajax,” he said. “When I was playing regularly he had left already, but I had a lot of sessions with him when I was a young player.
“I know his qualities, like everybody does. I played against him a few times, like when he was at Barcelona, so I know he is a strong and technical player, one of their main players. It is up to us as defenders to keep him quiet tomorrow.”