Arsene Wenger believes his captain, Robin van Persie, is a genuine contender for this season's PFA Player of the Year award. The 28 year old Dutch forward has been phenomenal for the London club this season, with 26 goals and 11 assists from 31 league matches so far.
In addition to the stats, van Persie has presented himself as a mature leader and one of the best captains in the country, often leading by example. In fact, it is largely because of their influential captain that Arsenal, who were 15th in the league in mid-September, are now third and favourites to land one of two remaining Champions League positions for next season. Wenger feels this is enough to mark his player as the best in the league, this term.
"Van Persie is a strong contender, certainly," Arsenal.com quoted Wenger as saying, "His focus has always been very great but his consistent presence has not been fantastic. It is the first year he has really been consistently on the football and that explains why he deserves completely to be Player of the Year."
It is not just Wenger who feels this way. Fellow Gunner Theo Walcott and Manchester United striker Michael Owen have also singled out van Persie as the only real contender for the award this year.
However, Wenger does also admit that Manchester City, whom the Gunners play this weekend, have a few nominees themselves.
"David Silva has a chance, Joe Hart as well," the Frenchman said.
The PFA Player of the Year is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have been the best of the year in English football. The winner is chosen by votes cast by members of the players' trade union, known as the Professional Footballers' Association.
Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale won the award last year.
Meanwhile, Wenger stated he is not bothered by speculation City were lining up a big-money bid for van Persie in the summer.
"Van Persie's not at the end of his contract despite what people might think," The Sun quoted the Arsenal boss as saying, "He has one year to go and I don't think it's the best subject before this weekend's game."
The Dutch striker will lead his club's attack once again on Sunday when Arsenal host Manchester City as the Gunners battle Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle United for a top four spot.