Arsenal rely on van Persie

Football Champions League

SQUARING OFF Arsenal’s Robin van Persie (left) and Jernade Meade during a training session at London Colney on  Tuesday ahead of their clash against Olympiakos. afpRobin van Persie has emerged as the man to lead Arsenal out of their early-season funk and the Dutch striker will be a key figure in ensuring their rehabilitation continues in the Champions League at home to Olympiakos on Wednesday.

Club skippr Van Persie scored twice in a 3-0 home victory against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday -- a win that helped steady the ship after the club's worst start to a Premier League campaign.

Despite that fillip there is still a long way to go before the doom-mongers disperse and anything short of victory on Wednesday against a club with an abysmal record in England would offer them more ammunition.

Olympiakos have lost all nine away games against the English opposition in Europe, conceding 29 goals in the process and scoring just once -- a record that suggests even an Arsenal side in transition should build on their opening draw in Dortmund with a convincing home win.

Van Persie, 28, has scored five goals already this season and Wenger believes the Dutchman, who the British media reported on Monday was in no rush to extend his current deal beyond 2013, is now mature enough to lead from the front, both as a goalscorer and a motivator.

In the wake of the defensive mayhem of an 8-2 defeat at Manchester United and a 4-3 loss at Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal looked far more secure against Bolton with German Per Mertesacker assuming the role of organiser at the back.

Arsenal have injury concerns though, with defender Laurent Koscielny and forwards Theo Walcott and Gervinho for ruled out.

Koscielny has an ankle injury, Walcott a knee problem and Gervinho a mild muscle strain but all three could be fit for Sunday's Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur.
Chelsea's Juan Mata will be back among friends when the Spanish World Cup winner returns to Valencia for the Champions League on Wednesday, just over a month after leaving.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas paid around 30 million euros ($40.4 million) to lure the playmaker to the Premier League and the 23-year-old made an immediate impact, scoring in an opening 2-0 home Group E win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Valencia started their European campaign with a disappointing 0-0 draw at Racing Genk. They were in fine form in La Liga until Saturday when they lost 1-0 at Sevilla.

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