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1 Wenger: RVP similar to Messi on Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:37 am


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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger thinks Robin van Persie is the London club's answer to Lionel Messi.

Van Persie brought his Arsenal goal tally to 100 when he bagged a well-taken double to help the Gunners end a difficult week on a high, with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over 10-man Bolton at the Emirates Stadium.

Van Persie racked up his ton in 239 appearances, 64 of which have come from the bench, and he is only the 17th player in the club's history to pass the 100 mark.

The 28-year-old's achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that he started his career at Arsenal as a winger.

Over time, Wenger moved the Dutchman further up the pitch and he now operates as the focal point of the team's three-man attack.

Van Persie is far from the typical targetman, though. He sometimes drifts and drops deep, picking up the ball and penetrating defences.

That, according to Wenger, makes him a similar player to Barcelona's Messi, the world player of the year who scored 53 times last season.

"I see similarities positional-wise with Messi. He comes deep, he likes to turn up up front as well," Wenger said.

"Positional-wise he doesn't play like a real centre forward. But when you look at his movement around the box he's very intelligent, goes on diagonal runs.

"I always thought his first touch was so good that he can make a difference even in a tight space."
Van Persie took over the captain's armband from Cesc Fabregas this summer after the Spaniard opted to join Barcelona.

The move was anticipated given the midfielder's ties with the club, but nevertheless still left a big leadership void to fill.

Van Persie's previous bad-boy image had made him a risky choice in some people's eyes, but Wenger thinks the former Feyenoord man has matured well since taking on the role.

Wenger said: "He has matured from the boy who was a little bit emotionally impulsive when he arrived to the guy who is here today.

"That was difficult to predict. But he is intelligent, speaks his mind and you can speak to him as well. He takes advice and overall he has developed very well."

Van Persie is understood to have sought assurances from Wenger this summer that the club's future was still bright following the sales of Fabregas and Samir Nasri, who refused to extend his contract and was sold to Manchester City.

Wenger understands why Van Persie was worried about the club's direction.

"If you're in Robin's place and you see Nasri going, Fabregas going, then you can be worried of course," Wenger said.

The club could be faced with a similar problem to the Nasri one if Van Persie does not sign an extension to his current contract, which expires in 2013, but Wenger is not concerned.

"Now he (Van Persie) is out? No, I don't think that really. Robin is not from Barcelona," Wenger quipped.

While Wenger had the rare joy of going home happy on a Saturday evening - "It has been a long time," the Frenchman admitted - Bolton boss Owen Coyle is feeling the heat following his team's poor start to the season.

After an encouraging 4-0 hammering of QPR on the opening day of the season, Bolton have lost five consecutive league games, leaving them bottom of the table.

They have had a tough opening few games, but that will not ease with next week's visit of high-flying Chelsea.

Coyle, who cut an upbeat figure despite his team's heavy defeat, is refusing to panic, however.

He said: "I want to win as much as the next man. Just because I'm chirpy doesn't mean I'm disappointed by the result. I don't want to feel sorry for myself, I want to get back on the training ground and rectify it.
"You have to give some balance to it, though. It's football pressure, it's not pressure of a dad with five kids who has to work to feed his family."

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