ARSENE WENGER paid tribute to Seb Larsson, labelling his former protege the "best free-kick taker in the Premier League".

Statistically, that opinion stacks up - with two goals from direct free-kicks this season, Larsson - who played under Wenger for the Gunners between 2004 and 2007 - is top of the Premier League charts.

It is rare that a game should boast two truly top-drawer goals from free-kicks, but in Larsson and Robin van Persie, Sky TV viewers were spoiled for choice - and Wenger could not choose between them.

Asked whether van Persie is the best free-kick taker in the league, the Arsenal manager replied: "Yes, with Larsson. I think Larsson is a top, top player, maybe the best in the league as a free-kick-taker."

The first of van Persie's brace came with only 29 seconds on the clock, but it was the Dutchman's second seven minutes from time which will bring the most plaudits, his perfect delivery from 20 yards evading the despairing glove of Simon Mignolet.

Wenger said: "The first goal was created by a good display by the team but the second chance he made the difference with his skill. It's exceptional.

"We started well for the first 25 minutes and when they equalised you could see they were wobbling a bit with confidence. At half-time the team regrouped and in the second half it was all right.''

While Steve Bruce has come in for criticism for not fielding a striker at the Emirates, Wenger believes that the visitors deserve credit for their performance.

He said: "I've seen a few games over the weekend and Sunderland of all the teams I've seen away from home, they were 100 per cent committed. They played with six midfielders and four defenders and they did fight for every inch on the bench. I didn't see many teams doing that on Saturday so I believe Sunderland deserve a lot of credit. They made life difficult for us.

"We have now won five games on the trot at home. You feel the attitude, the spirit of the team is great, they want to improve. At half-time I had a good response so the motivation is there, the quality is there, so we can slowly get there."