Wenger: Van Persie vital to us

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Arsene Wenger believes a revitalised Robin van Persie can help fire Arsenal's Barclays Premier League title challenge after watching the Dutchman net his first hat-trick as 10-man Wigan were beaten 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

The 27-year-old took his tally to six in the last three games with a treble against the below-par Latics - and that after blasting a penalty high into the stands following Gary Caldwell's red card for pulling back Cesc Fabregas.

"Robin is an important player in our squad. He can finish, provide and the understanding with our offensive players is very good so of course, he will be very important," Wenger said.

Van Persie has a history of promising campaigns interrupted by injury, last season undergoing ankle surgery to be fit in time for the World Cup.

The Holland forward had another frustrating spell on the sidelines from the end of August until the start of November after picking up a further ankle problem, but has looked sharp on his return.

Wenger hopes a fresh Van Persie - kept on the bench before coming on to score in the FA Cup third-round replay at Leeds - can give the Gunners the edge as they challenge for both domestic and European honours.

Wenger continued: "Some players have played many games, but Van Persie has been out for a long time. Him and Fabregas had a long breather and we hope he can benefit from that."

Wenger feels Van Persie will have grown in character from an enforced spell on the sidelines.

"What he has gone through has been difficult," the Arsenal boss said. "A player who is injured is fragile. He feels useless and is without his job. He is without his happiness.

"On the other hand, it has made him a lot stronger mentally because he had to fight against disappointments. This is what makes you strong in life. Robin is now a completely sharp and fit - and strong. He looks strong mentally."

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Robin Van Persie
Gary Caldwell
Premier League
Wigan Athletic
FA Cup
Leeds United

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