Robin van Persie has warned Arsenal cannot afford any more "criminal" lapses in concentration if they are to beat arch-rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane tomorrow night and keep alive hopes of catching Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United.
The Gunners missed a golden chance to close the gap down to four points when Van Persie slotted home a penalty deep into eight minutes of stoppage time against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Sunday - only for the Reds to go up the other end and equalise with a spot-kick of their own from Dirk Kuyt after Emmanuel Eboue had pushed over Lucas.
United could now extend their advantage further with a positive result at Newcastle tonight, heaping more pressure on Arsene Wenger's men to pick up maximum points against from the highly unpredictable north London derby.
Arsenal have made throwing away winning positions something of a habit this season, coasting 2-0 at half-time of their home clash against Spurs in November only to lose and then they failed to see out victory at Newcastle despite having raced into a 4-0 lead inside 26 minutes before caving into a Toon Army onslaught after Abou Diaby was sent off.
Holland striker Van Persie insists that alarming trait must be eradicated if the Gunners are to stay in touch with United ahead of their May 1 showdown at Emirates Stadium.
"This has happened too often, in my opinion," Van Persie told Arsenal TV Online.
"If you look at our history, when we are in front, when we are safe, when we have the three points in our pocket, we do concede goals.
"Some of them are silly goals, which we have to work on.
"We have to stay positive, but we really have to look at it because it is almost criminal to give away points like that."
Arsenal have little time to reflect on missed opportunities as they prepare to head to White Hart Lane for what is set to be another intense affair.
Van Persie was not involved when the Gunners ran out 4-1 winners after extra-time in their Carling Cup fixture earlier this season, but cannot wait to sample the derby awayday atmosphere again.
"We always look forward to playing these games," said the Holland striker.
"Maybe it is a good thing we play them this quick after a game like Sunday because we can make things right - there is no better way than [winning] at White Hart Lane
"I always say it is in these bigger games where you become a man, and it is up to us to show that."
Van Persie, 27, feels Tottenham have certainly improved in recent seasons and believes the arrival of fellow Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart can help push them back up into the Champions League places again.
"I have seen Spurs change and fair play to them, they have become a better side and been developing, they got into the top four," he said.
"This year the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart has given them a bit extra to not just stay the top six - he can be their difference from sixth spot to four or three maybe, because he gives them something extra, scoring goals, making assists, is consistent in his game and a good player."
Tomorrow night's game is likely to see both of the Professional Footballers' Association 2011 awards winners in action.
Gunners midfielder Jack Wilshere collected the young player trophy while Spurs winger Gareth Bale received the main honour.
Van Persie feels his teenage team-mate is "amazing".
The Arsenal striker said: "The amount of good games Jack has played is special. I have never seen anyone who is 19 and that good in his role.
"He plays very mature - when you get older, you have the experience and know how to play each game, and sometimes I feel he has that already.
"He can play for others and help others out, so that is a gift and he is doing it very well."
England winger Theo Walcott is relishing the chance to face Wales international full-back Bale, his former team-mate when trainees at Southampton.
"Hopefully he will be more on his backfoot than I will, and he will be more worried about me than I am with him," Walcott said.
"But I will just go out there and play my game - I won't worry that my mate is playing because you are mates after the game, you don't worry about that on the pitch."Reuse content