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Exceptional Robin van Persie is on a par with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

The Gunners boss believes his captain's stunning goalscoring form, notching up 38 goals in all competitions in 2011, has him playing at the same level as the world's best

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says in-form striker Robin van Persie is playing at a level comparable to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Dutchman scored both goals in Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, which ensures that the Gunners will qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League as Group F winners, to take his tally to 38 since the start of January 2011.

When asked if Van Persie could be considered on a par with the Spain-based superstars, Wenger told Sky Sports: “If he keeps going on like that, of course.

“Let him play and see at the end of the season. He is the leader of the team as well so what is important is that he leads the team to success.

“I feel he’s an exceptional player and happy that he can show that. He thinks day and night about his game.”

The Van Persie-inspired win means that Arsenal become the first English side to confirm their place in the competition’s last 16 this season.

When asked at a press conference if he was surprised at this, Wenger began: “I have to be very cautious what I say.

“I think 'yes’ as Manchester United could have qualified last night and everyone expected Manchester City to qualify.

“It is difficult at that level. You never play an easy game in the Champions League.

“It was a difficult group,” he continued.

“When we saw we were playing Udinese [in the qualifying round] we could not bet that we would go through as we did.”

Arsenal can now relax knowing that they will be under no pressure in their final group game, away to Olympiakos on December 6.

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