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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Wenger hails Van Persie's transformation

Arsene Wenger feels the transformation of Robin van Persie from talented winger to Arsenal's main goal threat is close to completion.

The former Feyenoord player - who turned 24 today - has produced some eye-catching displays during pre-season to mark his return from five months out with a broken metatarsal.

Van Persie struck a late winner to beat hosts Ajax on Saturday and secure the Gunners a second trophy within a week at the Amsterdam Tournament.

With Thierry Henry sold to Barcelona during the summer, and Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor set to miss the opening match of the new domestic campaign against Fulham on Sunday because of a groin problem, most of the attacking responsibility looks set to fall on van Persie.

However, the arrival of the impressive Brazilian-born Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva is certain to lift some of the pressure on the Dutchman, who was Arsenal's top goalscorer last season with 13 despite being sidelined since the end of January.

Wenger is more than happy with the progress of van Persie, who arrived at Highbury in May 2004.

'Robin has been transformed in a very good way since he arrived,' reflected the Arsenal manager.

'He has become a great passer of the ball as well as a talented player.

'Like any talented player, he is always worried about individual skills but he has improved and, for me, become a complete team player.'

Wenger, though, has impressed on van Persie not to become overly concerned with any burden to provide goals.

'Robin's responsibilities have got higher now Thierry has left, Before it was all on [Thierry's] shoulders, now it is more on Robin's,' said Wenger.

'I want him not to worry about that, just play good football, enjoy it and not be injured.'

Wenger believes the promise shown in pre-season - which also included victory at the Emirates Cup - has given his players renewed belief for the battles ahead.

'There is a great solidarity in the squad now,' the Arsenal manager said.

'Overall I am pleased with the performance of the team in the [Amsterdam] tournament as a whole because we had two quality games.

'We have built up our belief and confidence.'

Wenger will be hoping the remainder of his first team can steer clear of picking up knocks ahead of Sunday's visit of Fulham.

With Adebayor unavailable, Eduardo could be handed a start against the Cottagers, although attacking-midfielder Alexander Hleb was utilised just behind van Persie against Ajax last weekend.

Midfielder Gilberto is, meanwhile, not yet ready to be included in the first-team squad having just returned to training following an extended break after Brazil's Copa America triumph.

One player hoping to be involved next season is Nicklas Bendtner.

The big Danish striker has returned from a season loan at Birmingham determined to make his mark at Arsenal.

The 19-year-old netted in both pre-season tournaments, including a neat finish during the game against Lazio last Thursday.

However, Bendtner is likely to find himself warming the bench in the main competitions next season, with the Carling Cup his most likely chance to taste regular first-team football.

Wenger is, though, more than happy with the development of the young striker.

'At the moment he is a raw talent,' said the Arsenal manager.

'Nicklas is not completely ready to start in the Premiership and I wanted to give him as many games as I could in pre-season to help him understand what is needed.

'He is an intelligent and open-minded boy. We can have a frank discussion on what he has to do and he listens, then tries to do it.

'He is very, very confident, too. When you see a guy like that take the ball and take a penalty [against PSG] in his first game, that means he does not lack confidence.'

Wenger added: 'There was a lot of interest in him around Europe, but we wanted to keep him and extended his contract.

'He is super quick, very tall with good technique and he is intelligent. He just needs to play at a higher pace now.

'Certainly I believe the talent is in there.'