Arsene Wenger says Arsenal have 'now stabilised' following departure of Robin van Persie to Manchester United
Striker returns to the Emirates for the first time this weekend
Friday 26 April 2013
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has praised the way his side have adapted to life without the goals of Robin van Persie.
The Manchester United forward can expect a hot reception on his return to Emirates Stadium this weekend, with passions still running high among some Arsenal supporters over the manner in which the Holland forward left last summer in a £24million move.
There have been suggestions those disgruntled fans will turn their backs in protest when the teams come out from the tunnel for a guard of honour to mark United's Premier League achievements.
Wenger, though, has called for the club's former talisman to be shown respect - however painful that may be after watching his 24 league goals fire the Red Devils to a 20th championship title with a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday night.
Despite the considerable loss of Van Persie - who plundered some 37 in all competitions to help drag Arsenal into third place on the final day of last season - Wenger's side have remained a potent attacking threat.
Theo Walcott is top scorer with 18, while summer signings Olivier Giroud, who starts a three-match ban this weekend, has netted 17 times, with Lukas Podolski (14) and Santi Cazorla (12) both also into double figures.
"What you want to focus on is that when the big players go, you just want to get around it and try to find a new organisation that is efficient," said Wenger.
"You always miss a big player, but the only thing I can say [is] it took us a while to get around it. However, if you look at the number of goals we've scored, it's similar to last season.
"It took us a while to find a different way because the game went through him a lot. We had to find a new balance between defending and attacking but now we are stabilised."
It was a personal phone call from United boss Sir Alex Ferguson which helped clinch Van Persie's switch, the Dutchman having made it clear he did not want to sign a contract extension with Arsenal.
When asked if those events were now tinged with a touch of regret, Wenger said: "I don't go into the game thinking that. In our job, you look forward - so many great players have left this club that you could be full of regrets.
"When you make a decision, you know there are pluses and minuses. What is only important now is the future of the club and the team, that is how you look at it."
Wenger, who has seen the likes of ex-skippers Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas all move on in the past decade, added: "It is always difficult to lose big players.
"It is more difficult when they are 24 than when they are 29 and they have given a few years to the club, but that is part of the modern life of a modern footballer as well.
"You would prefer that [he scores] for you, but we are in a job where you want to do two things: do the best you can for your club and influence in a positive way the life of people.
"On that side, I think Arsenal had a positive impact on Robin van Persie's life and career so we have done our job in a positive way.
"I have a respectful relationship with Sir Alex. In this story, the final thing was done between us because it was the only way to get there."
Wenger maintains there was never a possibility of Arsenal refusing to hold a guard of honour, which United performed themselves in 2005 for Chelsea, who then returned the gesture two years later. United also honoured Arsenal when they visited Highbury back in 1991.
"When you work somewhere abroad, you have to respect the culture of the country. That is part of the tradition of English football and, of course, I want that to be respected," the Arsenal manager said.
"I can only reiterate that I want the player to be respected like everybody else.
"I always said that for every single player who left, even some of them in much more controversy than Robin van Persie."
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