Robin van Persie was not everyone's idea of the ideal replacement for the Barcelona-bound Cesc Fabregas when Arsene Wenger was scouting around for the next Arsenal captain at the end of last summer.

The injury-prone No.10 had only played more than 25 league games in three out of seven seasons since joining from Feyenoord in 2004. Indeed, Wenger had passed the armband around so frivolously to Lukasz Fabianski, Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou that the Dutchman appeared to be just one more notch on the list before a more suitable candidate was identified.

Hindsight is a wonderful fillip to such expectations and it is little surprise that van Persie has proved an inspired leader both on and off the pitch. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the recent 2-1 victory over Newcastle United, which cut the gap between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur from 10 points to just one.

Van Persie's goal scoring exploits and earnest emotional reaction to the time-wasting of Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul set the tone for what Wenger described as the "spirit, belief and commitment" of the current Arsenal side. Certainly, Wenger's choice of van Persie as Gunners captain could prove shrewd business for the long-term future of the club.

Robin van Persie

In the space of a couple of months, the prospect of an Arsenal title-challenge next season has gone from punch-line to genuine aspiration. Thomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta have both assumed greater responsibilities alongside Alex Song at the heart of midfield, allowing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott to play the type of expansive, attacking football that Wenger has long espoused. Jack Wilshire's return will bolster the ranks still further, while Aaron Ramsey should return stronger following a well-earned break from the game over the summer.

But the imminent arrival of Lukas Podolski should provide Arsenal supporters with the clearest indication that the current campaign has been a transitional one for Wenger's side. The 26-year-old German international can be expected to provide an ideal foil for the more nuanced van Persie, shouldering some of the goal scoring responsibility from the Dutchman, who has scored 26 out of Arsenal's total of 57 league goals.

Wenger himself has expressed a wry detachment from the fickle reaction to Arsenal's rollercoaster season. Whereas not so long ago questions were raised about the squad's "mental strength" following exits from the Champions League and FA Cup, now few would question that the prospects for a title challenge next season look strong. Thomas Vermaelen's injury-time winner against Newcastle set a new Premier League record after Arsenal became the first team to win from a losing position on four consecutive occasions. Few now question the side's mental toughness.

Tomas Rosicky

The turnaround in fortunes is the second time Arsenal have recovered from the edge of despair. Arsenal bounced back well after a woeful start, epitomised by those defeats at Old Trafford and Ewood Park, but slid backwards once again in January - losing to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United to end the month seventh in the table.

The 4-0 defeat against AC Milan at the San Siro represented a nadir of sorts for Wenger. Given licence to attack Milan's brittle defence in the return leg at the Emirates, Arsenal came within a misplaced van Persie chip of producing one of the great European upsets in the 3-0 win and a renewed belief and tenacity has spilled over into their league form.

The Gunners will be aiming for their fifth consecutive league win at Everton on Wednesday, with van Persie keen to see the club convert their current form into a renewed title charge next season.

"If you look at the last couple of weeks, we showed we have a lot of character in our side, and we can be proud of that," the Dutchman said. "Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. We need to have a run like that for months and even win the ugly games.

"We came from behind in the past four games and ended up winning the game. That shows we can do it, not only once or twice or three times, but lots of times. So why not show it 20 times or whenever it is needed?"

With money available to spend in the summer and the van Persie eager to extend his stay in north London, even the most sceptical of Arsenal supporters can see the hint of a brighter future at the Emirates.