Wenger puts Van Persie rest ahead of record quest


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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, says he is quite prepared to deny Robin van Persie a shot at breaking the Premier League calendar year goals record for the sake of the team.

The Arsenal striker is two short of Alan Shearer's record of 36 goals scored in 1995, having equalled Thierry Henry's seven-year-old club record by scoring against Aston Villa on Wednesday. But Wenger – who is mulling over whether to offer Henry a loan deal back at the club – is concerned that the demand of three games within the next six days, starting with Wolves at the Emirates tomorrow, will be too much for Van Persie, who has been dogged by injury in previous seasons.

He said: "I don't want to stop him. I am very happy if he does it but if he can combine the record with staying fit, then that is better."

Wenger admitted the fact the record is within touching distance may be playing on his striker's mind, something he noticed with both Henry and Ian Wright when they had Shearer's target in their sights.

He said: "Wright was aiming for the record and he didn't score. After he said 'no I am not bothered' but you know with Ian Wright, the one thing he thought about day and night was scoring the next goal.

"It was a little while for Thierry as well. It's strange – you score goals when you don't think about it."

Wenger believes the key to Van Persie's success has been his fitness – the Dutchman has played 23 times in a rare injury-free run this season. He said: "The difference is just the injuries and it shows how important it is to have a consistent presence."