No time to sell, insists Van Persie

Dutchman insists Arsenal cannot afford to lose big names again this summer
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The Independent Football

The Arsenal forward Robin van Persie has called on the club to keep their top players this summer and avoid a repeat of the major departures of a year ago. The Gunners lost Mathieu Flamini, Alexander Hleb and Gilberto Silva at the end of last season, and Van Persie yesterday stressed the importance of keeping the current squad together.

Gaël Clichy is on Real Madrid's radar, according to Spanish sources, while Emmanuel Adebayor has endured a frustrating season, but Theo Walcott has agreed a new deal and Van Persie is expected to do the same. "The main thing for me is that we stay together," Van Persie said.

"If we lose three or four every year, it is hard to get the spirit in. Hopefully, we can stay here and have a real go at it. If we can produce games like we did this year there is room for improvement – if you look at our midfield it is between 20 and 22."

The centre-back Kolo Touré has hinted he is ready to commit himself to the club and play his part in keeping the squad together. Touré said: "There is still time on my contract and I hope the club will show that they need me."

The Gunners will finish fourth in the Premier League this season and have gone half a decade without a trophy now their challenge for silverware is over, with calls from former players such as Emmanuel Petit for the club's manager, Arsène Wenger, to spend heavily. Wenger bought the striker Andrei Arshavin in January but does not expect more changes when the transfer window opens. "We have a team who is 22 years old [on average], why should we look for revolution?" the manager said. "That would be stupid and not responsible. I still believe that when you have responsibilities, you have to make decisions and stand up for that. Until now we have not done too badly."

Wenger told the French sports paper L'Equipe he does not know how much money he will have in the summer. "I do not think that the team need major investments," he said.

Wenger's project and the way he has nurtured talent gives the club something to be proud of, according to Van Persie, who said: "If you look at our squad and different teams, for example Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool, what they cost and what we have cost, that has something to do with it. We can be proud of ourselves."

Petit, however, believes Wenger should spend what he can. "Arsenal have not won anything in four years," Petit said. "Everything was done to bring together a young team and make it progress step by step, after [Thierry] Henry's departure. But, at the end of the day, the transition did not work out. Arsène Wenger was always protected by David Dein [Arsenal's former vice-chairman], but today the shareholders, the fans and the press are doing soul-searching.

"Arsène is extremely intelligent, a visionary. I am not saying that he should change his ways, but if he managed to find a compromise between youth and experience, like Manchester and every dominant team in Europe, he would find the right mix. But it means spending more money."

The Zenit St Petersburg striker Pavel Pogrebnyak is a player who would be willing to move to Arsenal. Pogrebnyak told Sport Express: "I think for any player to have the opportunity to work with Arsène Wenger would be a big step forward."