Arsenal determined to keep Robin van Persie

 

Arsenal will be determined to have captain Robin van Persie spearhead their attack alongside expected summer recruit Lukas Podolski next season.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has fuelled speculation of another big-money raid on Emirates Stadium for the Holland striker, who has yet to sign a contract extension, hailing the Gunners skipper as "one of the best strikers in Europe".

Those public comments from a rival manager are not likely to have been well received by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who over the past few years has seen Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri all join City for significant wage increases than on offer from the Gunners.

Van Persie, who has netted 32 goals in a stand-out individual campaign, insists he is comfortable to wait until the end of the season before sitting down with Arsenal to try to thrash out a new deal, with his current terms expiring in the summer of 2013.

Wenger has already publicly stated the club will "do anything possible" to retain the services of their talisman, who has grown into his role as captain following Cesc Fabregas' sale to Barcelona.

That is said to possibly include the offer of a £5million 'loyalty' bonus as well as improved terms.

It goes without saying Arsenal's hand would be strengthened with another opportunity of Champions League football, with Wenger's side now fully focused on delivering a top-four finish having bowed out of Europe despite a 3-0 home win over AC Milan on Tuesday night.

In the post-match press conference, Wenger was asked about revelations from Gunners defender Per Mertesacker, currently recovering from an ankle injury, that he and German team-mate Podolski had been exchanging text messages over life at Arsenal.

Wenger laughed off the subject, quipping "you would like me to explain what I cannot explain", but it appears a deal has now been struck with Cologne, reported to be in the region of £11million.

Poland-born forward Podolski, 26, has played at two European Championships and World Cup tournaments, so would offer a much-needed option for Wenger alongside Van Persie, with Marouane Chamakh and Park Ju-young both failing to make an impact.

Arsenal have built up some momentum in the weeks since their Champions League first leg 4-0 humbling in Milan, which was swiftly followed by exit from the FA Cup at Sunderland.

However, despite morale-boosting wins over Tottenham and Liverpool, there remains little margin for error.

Indeed, the Gunners could be back down to fifth should Chelsea beat Stoke on Saturday, while third-placed Spurs could extend their current four-point cushion with a positive result at Everton ahead of Arsenal's live Monday night clash against Newcastle, who are themselves not yet out of contention.

Wenger, who was charged with improper conduct by UEFA for his post-match comments to Slovenian referee Damir Skomina following the midweek defeat to Milan, said: "For us, it is clear, we have to win our games."

Arsenal have concerns over the fitness of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who both picked up knocks against Milan.

Mikel Arteta had to miss the game as a precaution following mild concussion, while Aaron Ramsey has been sidelined by an ankle problem.

Midfielder Abou Diaby endured a frustrating return from his latest comeback, breaking down with a hamstring strain after a substitute appearance at Liverpool.

The 25-year-old, though, insists he will soon return - and as strong as a "beast".

In an interview with French media, reproduced on the official Arsenal website, Diaby said: "I get injured. It is a fact, but when people tell you you're fragile, it hurts.

"I have had three operations on my ankle, all for different problems, but the result of that was that my body is unbalanced, especially in my legs.

"Today my ankle is twice as big because of the surgery. My problem is a biomechanical problem. I need to work daily on how to rebalance my body."

Diaby added: "I still have a big future. Physically, I really feel very good, like a beast.

"I have never been as motivated as I am now. I want to prove to everybody, and especially to myself, that I can do it.

"I have faith in what I am doing. I will never give up and I know that I will come out of this tunnel."

Diaby expects his latest lay-off to be minor.

He said: "Unfortunately, I had that little problem at Liverpool, but it is nothing serious and I will start running again at the end of the week."

PA

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