Arsene Wenger calls on Arsenal to produce perfect finish to the season

The Gunners' hopes were dented by a 1-1 draw with Manchester United

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger challenged his players to produce a perfect finish to their Barclays Premier League campaign after watching former striker Robin van Persie put a dent in the drive towards Champions League qualification as Manchester United drew 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

Former Gunners skipper Van Persie went some way to silencing the Emirates Stadium boo-boys when his penalty proved enough to share the spoils after Theo Walcott had fired the hosts ahead inside two minutes of what was at times a pulsating encounter.

Following a frantic opening which kept referee Phil Dowd busy, neither team was able to push on to claim victory.

As a result, Arsenal dropped back down to fourth after Chelsea beat Swansea, but are two points ahead of Tottenham, albeit having played a match more as the race to secure elite European football looks set to go the distance.

Crucially Arsenal's direct rivals will play each other on May 8, that coming after Chelsea visit Old Trafford next weekend.

Wenger knows his men must hold their nerve over the run-in, which sees them travel to relegated QPR, host Wigan just three days after the FA Cup final and then away at Newcastle on the final day.

"If we win our other games it will be enough. I am convinced we will be there, but there is no room for dropping points, however the other teams are in the same position," said Wenger, who had to do without 17-goal striker Olivier Giroud yesterday as he started a three-match ban for a red card at Fulham.

"Overall I can only praise the players for the effort, the dynamic and the desire we put in.

"Let's keep it going like that and we will have a chance to be where we want to be.

"However, we are in a position where we cannot drop points, we know that."

Former Gunners captain Van Persie received the expected hot reception as soon as he stepped out at the Emirates Stadium for a guard of honour, which was impeccably observed by the Arsenal team to mark United's achievements in marching to a 20th championship.

A chorus of boos greeted Van Persie as he emerged from the tunnel at the end of the United line, and the Holland forward was roundly jeered every time he touched the ball.

Van Persie, though, had the final say, as he coolly dispatched a penalty just before half-time after being tripped by Bacary Sagna as the Arsenal full-back tried to recover from inexplicably giving the ball away 30 yards from goal.

Wenger felt his former talisman conducted himself with great dignity, making a point of not celebrating after firing the ball past Wojciech Szczesny, who a few minutes earlier had made a brilliant point-blank save to keep out Van Persie's bullet header.

"Robin took his penalty very well. I knew when he decided to take the penalty that there was an 80% chance that he would score," said Wenger.

"He was our penalty taker and I know that he does that very well, he does a lot of things very well, Robin van Persie."

On the reaction of the crowd, Wenger added: "When he was here he didn't get this kind of reception, they loved him, so today it was a bit disappointed love."

Wenger, meanwhile, also moved to clarify his position following reports in the French press linking him with a summer move to Paris St Germain.

He said: "I have always respected my contracts, and at my age, I am not going to change.

"I am focused on the next (Arsenal) game, and am already planning for next season."

PA

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