WOLVERHAMPTON, England, April 12 – Arsene Wenger paid tribute to Robin van Persie after the Arsenal striker equalled Ian Wright’s Premier League record for scoring against the most teams in a 38-game season.
Van Persie’s early penalty in Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Wolves meant he has now scored against 17 of Arenal’s 19 league opponents this season, having only failed to find the net against Fulham and Manchester City,
Only Gunners great Wright has previously managed such a feat, with Sunderland and Manchester United the only sides the former England international failed to net against.
Andy Cole and Alan Shearer have also managed to score against 17 separate teams in a league campaign, but when the Premier League comprised of 22 teams.
“To achieve this in the modern game is remarkable, I would like to congratulate him. You only have 19 teams to score against so for your striker to have scored against 17 teams is something sensational,” Wenger said.
“He could have beaten it if he had scored against Manchester City on Sunday but he hit the post twice.”
Van Persie’s penalty arrived after Sebastien Bassong had been red carded for a professional foul on Theo Walcott, who added a second just two minutes later before Yossi Benayoun rounded off the win in the second half.
It was a ninth win from their last 10 in the league for Wenger’s side, who strengthened their hopes of qualifying outright for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
With just five games of the season remaining, they now enjoy a five-point cushion between themselves and fourth-placed Tottenham, who are beginning to look locked in a three-way battle with Newcastle and Chelsea for the final spot in Europe’s elite competition.
“We had a strong start and that made the difference,” Wenger added. “We played a bit with the handbrake on but they defended deeply with a great spirit.
“I am very happy we are in this position in third but I remain cautious as some teams were in that position before. From where we have come back from helps us to be focused.”
Wenger, however, insisted the referee had followed the letter of the law in sending off Bassong, who is on loan at Wolves from Tottenham.
“You could argue he was the last man,” he added. “The rules look a bit harsh but they are the rules.
“Never forget we lost Robin van Persie in Barcelona for having kicked a ball away for a second yellow card. It was a strict application of the rule. He had no choice because it was the rule.”
However, Wolves manager Terry Connor said: “I didn’t think there was any intention from Sebastien to impede, I though the red card was excessive.”
Bottom side Wolves have now lost seven successive games and are nine points adrift of safety, but Connor is refusing to give up hope.
“There is a chance. If the lads play with the heart, spirit and determination they did here, I can’t ask for any more.”
Meanwhile, Wenger has revealed his surprise that Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli has not been subjected to retrospective action for his stamp on Alex Song in Sunday’s match, while Shaun Derry’s seemingly soft dismissal against Manchester United on the same weekend has been allowed to stand.
He added: “I don’t still understand (the rules) well. If you put the two together it looks unbelievable that one is suspended and the other isn’t.
“But when the referee has seen something no one can get past the rule.
“I think we should have an exceptional committee of ethics to get over that. The global situation does not make sense.
“I’m not looking to get Balotelli suspended but it is difficult to understand.”