Van Persie faces weeks out of action after sprain

Dutch specialists conclude ankle problem is worse than initial diagnosis in blow to injury-hit Arsenal
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The Independent Football

Robin van Persie will miss "at least the next few weeks" of the season after suffering a twisted ankle in Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday. The Dutch football federation inspected the striker's injury yesterday and it believes that he will be out for longer than originally thought by the Gunners' medical team.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, said after the game that he thought Van Persie would miss 10 days of football but it now appears that was optimistic. It is a big blow for the north London club, who were without the Dutchman for five months last season with ankle ligament damage.

He recovered in time to help his country to the World Cup final in July – when they lost to Spain – but could now miss a home league game against Bolton Wanderers on 11 September, a Champions League fixture against Braga four days later and then Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Arsenal have already suffered with injuries this season. The midfielder Samir Nasri is out of action, having undergone minor knee surgery, while the likes of Denilson, Alex Song, and Johan Djourou have all been injured at one stage or another.

Van Persie's replacement for the Netherlands will be the former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who was rewarded for his blistering start to the Bundesliga season with Hamburg with a call-up for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against San Marino and Finland. The 34-year-old last played for his country in the finals of Euro 2008 after which he announced his international retirement.

He reversed that decision in the hope of getting a call-up to the 2010 World Cup squad, only to be overlooked by the Oranje coach, Bert van Marwijk. Now he will get his chance.

Wenger, meanwhile, has paid tribute to Cesc Fabregas, who seems resigned to staying at the Emirates despite constant speculation over the summer linking him with a move to Barcelona.

"I believe Cesc has given a lot to the club and the club has given a lot to Cesc as well," Wenger said. "I believe personally he loves Arsenal and that is why he accepted our decision. There is a trust and confidence [between us]. Every case is individual but to have players happy you need the club and the player to be happy.

"Of course, when a player wants to go somewhere else for a while he is not happy but it is very difficult to legislate on that. And, when you transfer a player, you need the agreement of the three parties. That is why player power exists and is legitimate. But the club has its word to say as well.

"It was vital for us to keep Cesc because we build a team around him. But I believe as well the players we have brought in have shown that they can adapt very quickly – [Laurent] Koscielny, [Marouane] Chamakh and now [Sébastien] Squillaci. So overall I believe we have done very well."

Wenger believes Fabregas can perform well this season despite any residual disappointment over his failure to get a move to the Nou Camp. "He will be the player he was before without any problem and he will be stronger," said Wenger. "And, of course, I think he will, once he is fit again, be involved mentally in the team. He is our leader, he is the leader of our team and he has a massive responsibility. I am convinced he will stand up for it."