Wenger picks apt time to praise Van Persie

Arsenal 3 Bolton 0
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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger did not want to compare Robin van Persie to Lionel Messi, the Barcelona playmaker and holder of the Fifa Ballon d'Or, then went ahead and did it anyway – but if you cannot draw such parallels after a player has scored his 100th goal for your club, when can you? And if you fear that you cannot match the wages that rivals might offer when a player's contract runs out, then letting him know how highly you rate him might be some sort of compensation.

Wenger called Van Persie "technically a super-talent," although he was talking more about the striker's role in the team than his status in the game when he invoked Messi. "I see similarities positional-wise," he said. "He doesn't play like a real centre-forward, he comes deep, he likes to turn up up front as well.

"Don't make me make a comparison with Messi, but when you look at his movement around the box he's very intelligent." Or, as Van Persie himself put it: "In Holland we call positions by numbers. You have the No 9 who is the main striker and the No 10 just behind. I call myself a nine-and-a-half."

Wenger also praised Van Persie's role as a captain who "speaks his mind" in the dressing room, all of which makes it more important that he does not become the next target for rivals after the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Fabregas's hankering for home, though, was a special case, Wenger claimed.

"Robin is not from Barcelona," he said. "We lost Fabregas not because of a financial reason but because of an understandable reason even if it hurts us a lot. The one which is less understandable is Nasri. That was more down to him having one year on his contract."

Exactly. Van Persie's present deal expires at the end of next season, and he sounded in no hurry to negotiate a new one. "I believe you have to look for a right moment to sit down and speak about your own stuff," he said. "I don't think it's clever to do that during the season. We have to see, I don't know."

That may yet turn into another drawn-out saga, but at least on Saturday Wenger was not forced to explain another morale-crushing defeat. With Mikel Arteta adding experience and guile to the midfield and Per Mertesacker beginning to exert a calming influence on the back-four he feels he can approach Wednesday's Champions League match at home to Olympiakos with cautious optimism.

"There is a long way to go but that is a little start and for us it will be down to consistency. You lose confidence quickly and you find it back slowly with team spirit and attitude. If you put [together] the Champions League results and the Shrewsbury Carling Cup tie, you just say the big accident was at Blackburn. But there is something coming and if we can develop it, it will be very interesting."

Bolton have lost all five games since beating Queen's Park Rangers 4-0 on the opening day of the season, and were not helped by the dismissal of David Wheater and the absence of Gary Cahill through illness, but the league table makes no allowances and it shows Bolton in last place.

"It's football pressure, it's not pressure of a dad with five kids who has to work to feed his family," Owen Coyle, the manager, said. "I don't want to feel sorry for myself, I want to get back on the training ground and rectify it."

Scorers: Arsenal Van Persie 46, 71, Song 89

Substitutes: Arsenal Arshavin (Gervinho, 78), Rosicky (Arteta, 81), Chamakh (Van Persie, 85).

Bolton K Davies 5 (Ngog, 20), Boyata 5 (Muamba, 56), M Davies 5 (Eagles, 70). Booked: Bolton Steinsson. Sent-off: Bolton Wheater (55).

Man of match Van Persie. Match rating 6/10. Possession: Arsenal 62% Bolton 38%.

Attempts on target: Arsenal 14 Bolton 3. Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham). Att 59,727.

Euro watch

* Olympiakos prepared for Wednes-day's trip to Arsenal with a 3-2 victory at Ergotelis on Saturday. Kevin Mirallas and David Fuser put the visitors 2-0 ahead, before two from Ergotelis' Diego Romano sandwiched a third from Ivan Marcano. Arsène Wenger is suspended from the touchline for this week's game, while the visitors are without banned right-back Rod Fanni.

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