2009-02-06

Wenger reasons to leave Van Persie on the bech

The Gunners were held to a goalless draw at the Emirates, which meant they were unable to make up ground on fourth-placed Aston Villa, who also drew at home.

Despite having around 70% of the possession, Arsenal Football Club rarely threatened the Hammer goal.

And although Wenger sent on van Persie with 15 minutes to go, there was to be no late goal as if often the Arsenal style.

In fact, when asked whether he regretted the decision to leave the Dutchman out of his starting line-up, Wenger insisted: "No.

"When sides defend like West Ham did you normally expect to score a goal in the last 15 minutes or so and van Persie was on for the last 15 minutes.

"It was done not to get him injured.

"We have to be cautious with him and he had played every minute against Cardiff and also Everton.

"We have bad experiences at the time we pushed him to play lots of encounters."

The Dutch marksman, who is the Gunners' leading scorer with nine Premier League goals, currently has 18 months remaining on his Emirates deal.

Both parties sat down to open negotiations two months ago, but they were postponed as the club underwent a boardroom reshuffle.

Although Arsenal are reportedly just shy of matching Van Persie's £80,000-a-week demands, Wenger is confident an agreement can be reached.

"He knows how much it means to me and we will try to sort him out," said Wenger. "I'm convinced it means a lot to Robin to stay here.

"I've invested a lot of time in them (Van Persie and Theo Walcott) because I feel it is important to them and it means something to them to be at this club.

"He wants to be part of the club and, of course, we have to satisfy his demands as well. I don't think that we're far away."

Van Persie's blistering form has coincided with an injury-free spell and Wenger's main concern is not trying to rely on the 25-year-old services too heavily.

"I believe him being fit has helped him greatly. He is a player who has made an extreme improvement," he continued.

"When you consider the player who arrived here, and who he is today, it's absolutely fantastic. He has ingredients which are very important - talent and motivation.

"The danger is to overplay him at the moment because we still have to be a bit cautious with him."

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