Mikel Arteta hails 'on fire' Robin van Persie

 

Mikel Arteta believes "on fire" Arsenal captain Robin van Persie is up there with the world's best strikers after his brace helped fire the Gunners into the last 16 of the Champions League.

The 28-year-old Dutchman netted twice in the second half of the 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund which secured safe passage into the knockout stages with a match to spare, and top spot in Group F.

Holland striker Van Persie has been in sublime form since the turn of the year, breaking the 30-goal barrier for 2011 with a double in the Barclays Premier League win at Norwich on Saturday.

And Arteta is in no doubt that his team-mate is right up there with the likes of Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

"We all know how good he is. Robin keeps performing and scoring goals, making the difference," the Arsenal midfielder said.

"At the moment he is level with any striker in the world, his numbers are unbelievable in the past eight or nine months.

"For me, it is just such a natural talent. Sometimes he looks as if he does not try, but beats players and scores an unbelievable goal.

"Robin is on fire, he is making the difference. Hopefully he can continue to do that and people can talk about him all the time, because that means we are winning."

Arsenal grew into last night's European tie against a well-organised German team, who lost star midfielder Mario Gotze to injury after less than half an hour.

In the end it proved to be a composed display from Arsene Wenger's men, who are a side transformed from their early-season woes, and takes the pressure off what is now a meaningless final group match at Olympiacos in a fortnight.

Arteta added: "We did not want to go to Greece having to win over there and we did the business against a really tough side.

"It takes a lot of pressure off and there are advantages to being top of the group, which gives you a better chance of going further.

"Every team in the Champions League are tough, but if there are ones you want to avoid then it is Real Madrid and Barcelona."

The Gunners may still be somewhat off the pace in the Premier League despite a fifth straight win last weekend, but Arteta feels Wenger's squad are now very much moving in the right direction as they prepare for the visit of Fulham.

"We are trying to improve the team and have been in a really good run over the past two months," the 29-year-old Spaniard said.

"However, we are still catching up on other teams in the Premier League because we had a really bad start, so there is still a lot to do."

PA

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