Laurent Koscielny confident Per Mertesacker can help shackle Robin van Persie on return to Arsenal

The Manchester United striker returns to the Emirates for the first time

Defender Laurent Koscielny is confident he and fellow centre-back Per Mertesacker can help shackle former team-mate Robin van Persie to continue Arsenal's “story” against Barclays Premier League champions-elect Manchester United next weekend.

Mertesacker's header at the end of the first half proved enough to secure a 1-0 win at Fulham - where both sides finished with 10 men after Gunners' striker Olivier Giroud saw red in the closing moments.

It was a ninth win in 12 league games for the Gunners, who are in third place, a point ahead of Chelsea and two clear of Tottenham although both have played a match less.

That record, though, will be severely tested next weekend, when United head to the Emirates Stadium looking to close in on the title, spearheaded by the goals of Arsenal's former talisman.

Koscielny said: "I hope we can keep Robin quiet. He is a good player.

"I enjoyed my time playing with him, but I hope we keep the story with us."

The France defender said: "It will be a hard game for the whole team, but we are at home and we will try to get the three points.

"It will be a good game against a big team and I think they have won the title (already)."

Koscielny, 27, has formed a good understanding alongside Mertesacker, whose close-ranger header just before half-time proved enough for victory over a battling Fulham side. So much so that it has kept captain ThomasVermaelen on the bench.

France international Koscielny believes the 6ft 7in German provides a steady influence at the heart of the Arsenal rearguard.

He said: "We play well together as a pair. We communicate on the pitch well.

"His experience is vital and it helps us work together on the pitch, so we try and talk to each other a lot and it is important at the back to have an understanding."

Koscielny added: "Per is a very good player. He reads the ball well. He is clever, attacks the ball and wins headers whereas I can go behind and be quick and cope with the long balls.

"He is good technically so he is good for the defence. Per is calm on the pitch.

"He is good for me, he uses his experience, this helps me, and he helps the team."

Wenger has been impressed by Vermaelen's response since being benched.

"Thomas is one of the best defenders in England, like the two others," the Arsenal boss said.

"I told them at the start of the season we have three outstanding central defenders.

"It is about game by game that I make a decision, and it is about partnership as well."

Wenger added: "Vermaelen has been a substitute for quite a few games and he still plays a big part in the game. I don't see him as a substitute at all.

"Koscielny was a long, long time during the season in that position and that can change very quickly."

PA

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