Arsene Wenger hailed Arsenal striker Thierry Henry as the best player in the world after watching him revive the Gunners' lingering English Premiership title hopes.
The mercurial France forward struck twice in Saturday's 3-1 home win over Sunderland, adding to Netherlands hitman Robin van Persies early goal by pouncing in each half to seal a deserved win for his side.
Wenger was thrilled with Arsenal's performance, and Henry's in particular.
"I think he is the best player in the world and he deserves to win the World Player of the Year award," the French manager said.
"If you look at the number of goals he has scored and the number of assists he has made, there's nobody better.
"He's also scored crucial goals for France, so he's contributed more than anyone else, including Ronaldinho and Andriy Shevchenko. He certainly has my vote."
The Gunners' 12th consecutive Premiership victory at Highbury cut the gap on leaders Chelsea to 11 points ahead of the Blues' match at Manchester United on Sunday.
Wenger admitted that he would be rooting for United, even though a scouting trip abroad will prevent him from watching the game.
"If we are talking about winning the Premiership, we would like Manchester United to win," he said. "Unfortunately, we cannot just rely on ourselves if were going to win the title. If Chelsea keep winning it will be very hard, but I have not given up yet."
Henry was in dazzling form at Highbury, despite having been a doubt before the match thanks to a groin injury. After Van Persie had put Arsenal ahead with a cool finish in the 12th minute, Henry took charge.
The 28-year-old doubled the home sides lead 10 minutes before half-time after smashing Laurens pin-point cross past debutant Sunderland goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from eight yards.
But Henry's best moment came midway through the second half. There seemed little danger when he received the ball with his back to goal 12 yards out, but the striker teed himself up with a delicate touch and then fired an extraordinary overhead kick over Alnwick and on to the right-hand post.
"I thought for a moment he had lost control of the ball, but it was an amazing try," said Wenger. "It would have been a fantastic goal."
Sunderland hardly posed a threat, but they were handed a lifeline with 15 minutes remaining when Stubbs scored from close range.
Arsenal suddenly looked edgy, but their nerves were calmed in the 82nd minute when Henry burst into the area and fired precisely past Alnwick for his eighth goal of the season.
"I felt we were a little bit too comfortable at 2-0 and they proved that by scoring," said Wenger.
"There was no stress on us and I think we need that stress. But overall I am pleased with the performance."
Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy was left contemplating an extended spell at the bottom of the table.
McCarthy admitted that his side had been beaten by the better team, but still criticised his defenders for making life too easy for the Gunners.
"I was disappointed with the way we defended," he said. "Arsenal have some fantastic players and it's difficult to stop them when they play well, but we should have made a better fist of it."
Defeats for Manchester City and Charlton helped Arsenal climb into the top three, though unfancied Wigan's 2-0 win at Portsmouth kept them in second place, five points clear of the Gunners.
Liverpool claimed their first away win of the season by overcoming Aston Villa 2-0 in Birmingham.
Defender Liam Ridgewell was judged to have wrestled Peter Crouch to the ground, but O'Leary insisted the Liverpool striker was doing just as much grappling.
"The referee has cost us the game - end of story," the Villa manager said after watching his side beaten for the fifth time in their last six matches.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez rejected O'Leary's view of the spot-kick. "For me it is a clear penalty," he said.
"The most important thing for me is not the penalty, it is how we played. We played well, we were compact and organised. We went forward, created chances and we deserved to win."
Top-flight debutants Wigan continued to confound the pre-season odds by claiming their sixth straight league victory at Fratton Park.
Blackburn ended Charlton's 100 per cent away record with an impressive 4-1 win at Ewood Park.
Fulham pulled further away from the drop zone courtesy of a 2-1 home win over high-flying Manchester City.
Teddy Sheringham's fourth Premiership strike of the season was enough to give West Ham victory over visitors West Bromwich at Upton Park.
Newcastle made it four wins on the trot with a 1-0 win over Birmingham at St James' Park.
The visitors resisted the combined firepower of Michael Owen and Alan Shearer for over an hour.
But Steve Bruce's relegation-threatened side finally succumbed to their eighth defeat of the season when Turkey midfielder Emre Belozoglu fired in a 78th-minute shot that found the net with the help of a deflection off Owen.
Source: China Daily