The Arsenal manager said after Robin van Persie's double strike against Bolton on Saturday in which his second goal was his 100th for Arsenal, that it would be "difficult to imagine our team without him." It is a sentiment which will no doubt be echoed by every Arsenal supporter, with the 28 year-old Dutchman not only being a massive presence in the squad as the new captain, but also a fan favourite with mutual respect between himself and the fans.
Indeed this marvellous relationship began seven years ago, when Wenger discovered a gifted young left winger with exceptional dribbling skills as well as a superb eye for goal plying his trade with the Dutch club Feyenoord. Arsenal already had a legendary striker from the Netherlands at the club in the form of Dennis Bergkamp, but at a very advanced stage in his career, Wenger wanted a replacement.
A wonderfully inexpensive bargain at £2.75 million, van Persie is now in his eighth season with Arsenal, and having been converted into a striker by Wenger, has reached the incredible 100 goal landmark, assisting an equally impressive 46 goals along the way. He becomes only the 17th player to ever reach the 100 goal mark in Arsenal's history and the only current Gunner inside the top 20 goalscorers for the club.
It is a widely held belief that without his persistent and unfortunate injuries which he has been prone to, he would have far more goals to his name, and would be far higher up the list of top scorers, and closer to another of Wenger's bargain buys, Thierry Henry, at the peak.
Van Persie's personal achievements with Arsenal are slightly overshadowed by the fact that he has only won a single F.A Cup in 2004 and a Community Shield a year later. It is a disappointing and unfortunate record for a man who could have achieved so much more with another club, yet the fact he has stayed loyal to Arsenal for so long, is another reason why he is held in such high regard.
The latest transfer rumours link him with a move to Manchester City for a fee of £30 million, and while it seems incredibly unlikely that van Persie would jump ship now, that price tag emphasises his importance as a player, leader and world-class star.
Wenger is under a lot of pressure for his role in Arsenal's nose-dive towards the bottom half of the table this season as well as the lack of trophies in the last six or so, but a success story such as van Persie's has a lot to do with the French manager. It may be a long term policy, but has proved to have paid dividends, and is one of the main actions that Wenger will be remembered for when he has gone.
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