Wenger: Van Persie inspired by record tilt
Arsene Wenger admitted Robin van Persie has been given a new lease of life as he attempts to break a Premier League record.
Arsenal manager Wenger believes the Netherlands international does not want to be rested in his mission to score 37 goals in a calendar year. Van Persie took his tally to 34 goals this year with a penalty in the 2-1 victory at Aston Villa and is now only two away from equalling Alan Shearer's achievement.
The goal at Villa Park has already enabled him to equal Thierry Henry's seven-year club record but the striker is clearly on a personal crusade to etch his name into the record books.
And Wenger claimed he is not ready to give him a rest as he prepares for two home games in succession against Wolverhampton Wanderers and QPR. "Robin keeps going and of course you always have that question about whether to rest him. He played against Manchester City but at the moment he feels alright so I just take a gamble.
"He is only three goals away from beating the record so now I will start to rest him! We've now got a breather until we prepare for the Wolves game on Boxing Day. We've had two difficult away games where we've had to give absolutely everything so to win at Aston Villa was very pleasing."
Gunners firing on all cylinders
Wenger paid tribute to the spirit of his squad after the win at Villa kept them on the coat-tails of Chelsea in fourth place. Arsenal have recovered from a dreadful start to the campaign to record a run of only one defeat in their last ten games.
Wenger said: "Our spirit is exceptional and that's why we came from a bad start to the season to such a strong run. You could see against Villa that some legs and minds were jaded from Sunday (the game at Manchester City) but we kept going and there is an exceptional attitude and spirit in the side."
Wenger also revealed that France international Bacary Sagna is expected to make an early return from injury. Sagna broke his leg in October and it was feared he would miss the next three months but Wenger reckons he will be back by the middle of next month.
Villa crashed to their fourth home defeat in five games but manager Alex McLeish was encouraged by an improved performance. McLeish faces Stoke on Boxing Day and Chelsea on New Years Eve.
"If we can play the way we did against Arsenal for the remainder of the season I'll be confident," he said. "It's just about getting our players fit and free from suspension because I've never been able to do that since I came here."