Van Persie praise for Wenger's support

The 22-year-old spent two weeks in police custody in Rotterdam following his arrest on 13 June after a woman claimed that he launched a sex attack on her. Although Van Persie was not charged, he remains subject to the ongoing investigation.

Arsenal gave the youngster - signed from Feyenoord in a £2.75m deal in May 2004 - extra time off from pre-season training after his return, while his national team also offered support.

Van Persie scored in the first game of the new Premiership season against Newcastle, and was in the Netherlands squad for their World Cup qualifier against Andorra in Eindhoven last night.

The Dutchman admitted it had been a tough experience, but was full of praise for the backing he received from both club and country.

"I have had a difficult time and there are not so many people who will help you through those times," Van Persie said. "But Van Basten has handled me very well. He is very positive about me to other people and I'm happy with the way he is protecting me. There are not many people like that - he is very important for me."

Van Persie continued: "Arsenal and Arsène Wenger has helped me as well. I wanted to have a nice holiday, but it didn't turn out the way I expected. I have a problem, but I'm concentrating on my football at the moment."

Van Persie maintained there was never any question he would not return to his homeland to try to assist the Dutch with their World Cup campaign.

"I never thought about staying in England and not playing for the Dutch team," the Arsenal forward declared. "I have a goal and I can only reach that goal if I play in the Dutch team. I am happy with the way my football is going now."

Wenger will be hoping all of his international contingent return unscathed from their globe-trotting over the past 10 days.

As well as Van Persie, the likes of Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Jens Lehmann, Philippe Senderos, Freddie Ljungberg and Alexander Hleb have all been in action across Europe, while the defender Kolo Touré has been on duty with the Ivory Coast.

Gilberto, the Arsenal midfielder, helped Brazil to secure their place in Germany next summer with an authoritative victory over Chile.

The Arsenal manager could be set for a boost to his defensive ranks for the Premiership clash with Middlesbrough on Saturday after Sol Campbell came through another 90 minutes for the reserves.

The 30-year-old England centre-half has not featured for the first team since the 2-1 defeat by Birmingham City on the final day of last season because of a calf problem, but has now been in full training for several weeks.

Despite playing against Leicester reserves and, on Monday evening, at Ipswich reserves, Wenger is, however, determined not to take any chances in recalling Campbell too soon.

Henry, meanwhile, will have his sights firmly set on becoming Arsenal's all-time record goalscorer after his double against Fulham last month took him to within one goal of equalling Ian Wright's total of 185.

* Plymouth have served notice to terminate the contract of their manager, Bobby Williamson, after six matches of the new Championship season. Argyle have slipped to fourth from bottom of the table after four successive defeats.

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