Wenger focus is on the team despite Van Persie target
Wigan 0 Arsenal 4
The DW Stadium
Monday 05 December 2011
The record books beckon for Robin van Persie but for once it was the goalscoring efforts of others that strengthened the view that Arsenal's recovery carries conviction.
Condemned as a spent force after suffering four defeats in their opening seven Premier League games, Arsène Wenger's side have since won six and drawn one, rising to fifth place and, on the evidence of this display, have regained much of their swagger.
Wenger's faith in the potential of his squad has, for now, been proved correct, although the true test of Arsenal's qualities will come when Van Persie is missing from the team. The Netherlands forward's remarkable scoring run has underscored the club's campaign, although on this occasion his 14th goal of the season merely rounded off a convincing victory after the foundation stones had been laid by Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho.
Van Persie's strike was his 32nd league goal of 2011 and, with five games remaining, has every chance of surpassing Alan Shearer's record of 36 goals in a calendar year.
"Why not?" replied Wenger when asked if the forward could beat Shearer's record. "But you have to focus on things that are important and what is important is that the team plays well. Robin played well in an outstanding team performance today and he was rewarded by scoring a goal as well. Overall, if the team plays well Robin will score. He has had an outstanding season so let's just hope we can keep him fit. I think he has played around 48 games in the calendar year and that is maybe the best he has played."
Van Persie has been quick to divert some of the praise directed his way towards Theo Walcott who once again provided the assist for the striker's 78th-minute goal but with the Dutchman so dominant, the consequences of losing him inevitably prompts concern. To that end, Arteta admitted satisfaction that Arsenal demonstrated that firepower exists in other areas of the team.
"For me, it was good the other players scored to take pressure off him," said the midfielder. "You cannot rely on Robin to score the goals all the time... it's not fair on [him]. He scores all the time and it was good for us to share goals around. We have to share the responsibility."
Wigan undeniably assisted Arsenal in that respect, not least when the home midfield evaporated as Arteta strolled forward before beating Ali Al Habsi with a 25-yard shot. Roberto Martinez's side were similarly ineffectual when Thomas Vermaelen headed the second from a corner 60 seconds later while Gervinho demonstrated a scorer's instinct in following up when Al Habsi parried Van Persie's 61st-minute shot.
Relegation looks likelier than not but Martinez maintained his sense of optimism. "This group is ready to achieve and today was a hiccup," he said.
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