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Van Persie delights in proving the doubters wrong

By Mike Rowbottom

Amid the mayhem of trailing wires, ponderous security measures and media jostling that followed Arsenal's 1-0 Champions League Group H match win in Bucharest, Robin van Persie was as cool as he had been in sweeping home the decisive goal 15 minutes from time.

Having ensured a first win for an English team on Steaua's home patch, and set Arsenal on course to win their sixth successive opening League group, the 24-year-old Dutchman was eager to underline the growing sense of excitement within this young squad as he stood in the madness that was the mixed zone.

His sense of imminent possibilities, he said, had developed after he made an early return to pre-season training as part of his recovery from a broken metatarsal.

"At the start of the season I said we will surprise – and everyone was laughing," he said.

"Now 12 games into the season, everyone says, 'Ooh, look at Arsenal, they are a good team'. This I knew before and my mind has not changed.

"I started training early this season with Theo [Walcott] and after, when the rest of the lads came back in, I saw a great togetherness and belief and big quality. This is what I saw day in, day out.

"I can understand the views of the fans and the press because they are not there every day – but I am, and I saw this from early on. If we can stay together we can do amazing stuff in the future. We are progressing every week we play together.

"If we just play our normal game, not many teams can stop us. We can win trophies this season. Why not? This is our aim. I think we are doing it now already. We are not at the end.

"I like the fact that we play together week in, week out and some teams – for example, Liverpool – switch. That's OK if they choose to do that, but we like to be settled.

"I know, for example, when Cesc [Fabregas] has the ball I know what he's thinking about; I know what I can do. Everyone knows what they have to do. It is very, very important."

Van Persie's optimism was mirrored by that of Arsenal's goalkeeper Manuel Almunia – who, at 30, was four years older than any of his colleagues on the night.

"The young players, they are showing all the maturity and talent they have," Almunia said. "That's great for Arsenal. They have an unbelievable future and they are going to make Arsenal the biggest club in England for sure."

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, clearly shares the sense of excitement, although in the aftermath of victory he maintained that the side's only relevant challenge was to keep on winning – with Sunderland at home providing the next oppurtunity.

Somehow you can see it happening.

Group H

Results: Arsenal 3 Seville 0; Slavia Prague 2 Steaua Bucharest 1; Seville 4 Slavia Prague 2; Steaua Bucharest 0 Arsenal 1.

Remaining fixtures: 23 Oct: Arsenal v Slavia Prague; Seville v Steaua Bucharest. 7 Nov: Slavia Prague v Arsenal; Steau Bucharest v Seville. 27 Nov: Seville v Arsenal; Steaua Bucharest v Slavia Prague. 12 Dec: Arsenal v Steaua Bucharest; Slavia Prague v Seville.

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