Van Persie scored in Arsenal’s last-16 first leg victory over Barcelona at The Emirates last season, but the Dutch striker was sent off in the away leg as Arsenal made a premature exit from the competition at Camp Nou.
The Gunners take on AC Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday in the first leg of their knock-out tie – and with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, Wenger expects Van Persie to be key to the London side’s hopes.
“I believe that game at Barcelona was hugely frustrating for him,” Wenger told Arsenal’s website. “I believe as well when he was sent off that he didn’t deserve to be.
“It was also a big frustration as he wasn’t prepared to play that game – everybody said he could not play because of his knee problem. I decided very late to play him. He had to dig deep as well maybe to play the game. But this year he is in a much better condition.”
Wenger handed Van Persie the Arsenal armband following Cesc Fàbregas’ transfer to Barcelona in the summer.
And the 28-year-old has been in stunning form, helping the Gunners recover from a torrid start to the season by firing in 28 goals in all competitions.
“Robin has grown into a great, great player, a great leader,” said Wenger. “Thomas [Vermaelen] is vice-captain so we are bit under the Dutch influence. Before it was French, and English.
“Robin has taken his role very seriously and has become not only a great player but a great leader for the team and credit to him for that.”
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