Wenger praises exceptional Van Persie

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has praised captain Robin van Persie after the Dutchman’s exceptional campaign for the Gunners this season.

After the much-publicised departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas to Manchester City and Barcelona respectively, responsibility was passed on to the Dutch international with a lack of experience in the squad.

Despite a slow start to the season that saw some questioning Wenger's managerial credentials, the Emirates Stadium outfit have turned their season around and currently sit in third place in the Premier League table, with Van Persie's performances a pivotal part of their success.

Along with 27 league goals, the 28-year-old was recently named both Professional Footballers Association and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year to cap off a memorable season for the Dutchman.

And mentor Wenger believes it is down to the former Feyenoord striker adding leadership qualities to his game.

"I believe he was consistent, he had an exceptional year because he scored goals but he was as well a provider," said Wenger.

"I think that's what people admired with him this season, the fact he was not only a goal-scorer but also a guy who provided assists.

"But something that was maybe questioned about him in the past is that he was a fighter. I think he added that combative side to his game, as a leader and a captain in the team, and that's what certainly convinced everybody.

"He has grown mentally and you see it better when you look back with a distance. The young player who arrived here and the man he is today, I believe he has grown a lot and made a big, big, massive improvement on that front. He has grown into a leader and he is a great captain now, on and off the pitch."

With Arsenal prone to losing key players in the past, Wenger believes it is vital that Arsenal keep hold of their prized asset.

"That's what I will try to achieve," said Wenger. "I am confident [he will stay] for two reasons. First of all I want to convince him to stay here and to extend his contract. Secondly he is not free at the end of this season, he has one year of his contract left anyway."

By Matt Maltby