Wenger: If I fail then I would consider leaving
Norwich City 1 Arsenal 2: Manager's admission takes gloss off Van Persie's barnstorming display
Sunday 20 November 2011
On any other day, when Robin van Persie scores twice and puts on another scintillating display of forward play, it would be the Dutchman who would take the attention. But when Arsène Wenger was reported to be considering his futureat Arsenal, then it was the Frenchman who, not for the first time in his illustrious career, dominated the agenda.
Wenger will not be leaving Arsenal this week and said he would be at the club until his contract ends in the summer of 2014. But he did, possibly for the first time, express doubts as to the quality of his work at the north London club and said if it dips below the standards he sets, then he might say "Au revoir".
After Arsenal had notched up their fifth successive League win, he said: "I'm completely committed to this club, it's the club of my life. I'm committed to my contract. If you don't do well enough then I would consider [leaving]... if I'm below what is expected. But I think I've always shown my commitment."
The quotes about his future appeared in L'Equipe magazine, the French sports publication, yesterday morning. They belonged to an interview he gave "two or three weeks ago".
But he said after this win: "I have two years on my contract [at the end of the season] and it was after the chat I said the only way I would leave is if I didn't give what was expected, if I was below what was expected. I will respect my contract but there are many people questioning what I do. But if at the end of the season you feel you didn't deliver..."
Wenger, who has not won a trophy since 2005, did not specify what is expected. He said: "I have to wait and see the quality of my work at the end of the season – it is not as simple as top four or else. After 15 years I have many questions and have to analyse the situation objectively. It is the club of my life unless I don't do well enough."
In the L'Equipe interview he talked about the disappointment of losing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer.
If holding on to his best players is his benchmark for staying, then Van Persie has to remain at Arsenal. The Holland forward's two goals here were his 30th and 31st in 29 League games in 2011. He is "exceptional" said Wenger.
Arsenal should have taken the lead after just two minutes but Van Persie and Theo Walcott spurned chances, and ended up waiting an hour to do so. Sadly for Norwich, Russell Martin was involved, yet it was he who had kept Norwich in the game in the first half with three goal-line clearances. The centre-back advanced to the halfway line but gave the ball away. Phil Dowd could have stopped play for a foul by Martin on Aaron Ramsey but sensibly let it continue. Alex Song picked up the pieces, took the ball forward and found Van Persie to his right and the Dutchman dinked his right-footed shot over John Ruddy.
Van Persie is only the fifth playerin Premier League history to score 30 goals or more in a calendar year.
His first of the afternoon was a little easier but it was just as important, given the way that Arsenal had contrived to fall behind to Steve Morison's opportunistic strike.
The Norwich striker's fourth goal of the season owed much to Per Mertesacker's incompetence. The defender should have been in control of the situation but instead Morison burrowed his way on to the ball, leaving the German on the floor, and finished from six yards out.
Despite that setback, Arsenal remembered this was November and they had won four consecutive League games prior to kick-off. The attacking flair is back and even if the defence is still porous, they are creating plenty of scoring opportunities. Here their most profitable approach was with Walcott opening up the Norwich defence down the Canaries' left.
The Gunners' riposte was inevitable and it arrived 10 minutes after Morison scored. Van Persie started the move by finding Walcott who ran one way round Marc Tierney and sent the ball the other. From his cross, Gervinho tried, and failed, to backheel it past John Ruddy, but Van Persie, of course, was there to tap in from five yards.
Anthony Pilkington brought a good save after the interval from Wojciech Szczesny, after he curled a free-kick over the wall from 22 yards and Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager, was proud of how his side had competed with Arsenal. He said: "We deserve credit as we were always in the game", but on a day like this it is Arsenal who will always steal the headlines.
Norwich City (4-3-2-1): Ruddy; Naughton, Barnett, Martin, Tierney; Crofts, Fox (Bennett, h-t), Johnson; Hoolahan (Holt, 68), Pilkington (Jackson, 82); Morison.
Arsenal (4-1-2-3): Szczesny; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Song; Ramsey, Arteta; Walcott (Djourou, 90), Van Persie, Gervinho (Benayoun, 78).
Referee Phil Dowd.
Man of the match Van Persie (Arsenal).
Match rating 7/10.
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