There was some worrying talk last week that Robin van Persie was "in the red". The phrase has taken on a sort of infamy at Arsenal after Arsène Wenger used it to describe Jack Wilshere's condition towards the end of last season. The midfielder's statistics, he said, indicated that he was on the brink of injury and, therefore, he should not play at the European Under-21 Championship. Wilshere has, indeed, subsequently broken down.
Van Persie is no stranger to injury, and, particularly not, those picked up on international duty and so when he linked up with Holland Wenger might have feared the worst, especially as his numbers showed that he was not in top condition. Wenger begged Bert van Marwijk, the Holland coach, not to play his striker in the friendly against Germany last week.
In what felt like a rare illustration of an international manager willingly doing what Wenger wants, Van Marwijk left Van Persie out of the 3-0 defeat. The Dutchman returned to sink Norwich City on Saturday and here he continued his remarkable year with the goals that propelled Arsenal into the last 16 of the Champions League for the 11th season in succession. He has now scored 38 goals in 41 games in all competitions for his club in 2011. Van Persie is simply in clover.
"Having a little rest can give you an extra five or 10% in a game," Van Persie said. "I'm not saying that playing against Germany would have seen me get injured, but sometimes players can drop after an international break. Wesley Sneijder played in that game, for example, but he wasn't fit to play for Internazionale at the weekend."
Van Persie's presence in the starting line-up had represented a tonic, as he had been used only as a substitute in the club's previous two home ties in the competition, and it was also a declaration of Wenger's intent. The soundness of his decision to rest Van Persie against Marseille at the beginning of the month had been questioned, with even Wenger admitting after the 0-0 draw that it had backfired. He wanted no scope for regret here.
It is only when you watch Van Persie live that you fully appreciate the menace and sharpness of his movement. Mats Hummels of Dortmund constantly saw him dropping into the space behind and, in the 12th minute, he rose to loop a header goalwards from André Santos's cross. Before the interval, Van Persie was thwarted when Roman Weidenfeller reached out an arm to claw Theo Walcott's devilish cross away from him, and the Dutchman was denied again by Marcel Schmelzer's saving tackle. Dortmund dared not lapse, but they could not keep him out. Who can at the moment?
Van Persie's opening goal owed everything to some mercurial wing play but it came not from the one of the club's jinking forwards, rather the hulking figure of Alex Song. His fleetness of foot to dart in between Sebastian Kehl and Lukasz Piszczek took the breath and his cross invited Van Persie to do what Van Persie does.
The header carried too much punch for Weidenfeller – perhaps the goalkeeper, like the rest of the stadium, was still aghast at Song's skill – while, the second was thrashed home from close range late on.
Song was the man of the match but in front of the watching Thierry Henry and Roger Federer, two men who, according to the advertising executives, know a bit about cutting edge, Van Persie provided it.