Robin van Persie scored twice at the Emirates Stadium yesterday but that was not the only impression he made on Aston Villa. The Villa manager, Alex McLeish, last night asked the Football Association to investigate the Dutchman for allegedly elbowing Carlos Cuellar.
Van Persie appeared to look at Cuellar before delivering a little jab to the defender's jaw as the pair challenged for a high ball. No action was taken at the time by the referee, Mike Jones, but he may now be asked to look at the incident on video. McLeish said: "Look at my nose. That's the result of too many elbows. It is a dangerous thing to do. I've not seen a replay but I saw it in real time and I thought he hit Carlos."
If Jones thinks the incident would have been worthy of a red card, Van Persie will be banned for three matches. That would be a severe blow to Arsenal, for the striker has scored 25 goals this season. Yesterday's two penalties took him to 120 career goals for the Gunners, a tally that matches his compatriot Dennis Bergkamp. "That is a big honour," he said.
Theo Walcott intimated that Van Persie had done more than just score twice, suggesting the captain had rallied the team when they went into the break two goals down and with boos ringing in their ears.
Walcott said: "This Cup means masses to us because we obviously haven't won anything for a long time. Robin reminded us of that at half-time. To win shows we have great character in the dressing room even though no-one thinks we do. My goal was a bit of luck but hopefully that means our luck has changed now."
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said he told the team not to panic, and to press Villa higher up the pitch. It was not exactly the Gettysburg address, or even the "roasting" McLeish said the Frenchman must have delivered. Nevertheless, with Van Persie's additional input it worked.
"I said it was a good test for us to show we have the mental qualities to come back," Wenger said. "To concede just before half-time was a difficult blow but we responded very well. We had to fight. I said, 'You can feel sorry for yourself, or show you have the mental qualities to play for this club.' I was proud they did not lie down. I hope we can now bounce back in the Premier League as well and we can convince the team they have the qualities."
They will have to do that without Jack Wilshere for the foreseeable future, as Wenger said he still did not know when the injured England midfielder would be able to resume full training. However, he added that developments since last week's "little setback" had been positive. Wilshere, who will have more tests this week, had not had to wear a protective boot and had come to yesterday's game.