Arsène Wenger has said that Arsenal will “not lose anybody to Manchester City” as he continued to insist that Robin van Persie would stay put at the end of the season. The captain’s future has been the subject of intense debate since he indicated last September that he did not wish to discuss a new contract at the Emirates Stadium until the summer, when he would have 12 months to run on his deal.
City have monitored the situation and, on Wednesday, Roberto Mancini confirmed that they would be among the clubs who would like to sign the Dutchman, who has scored 32 goals in 34 starts in all competitions for Arsenal this season.
Wenger has not taken kindly in the past to City commenting in public about his players and he was furious last summer when Mancini said he hoped to sign Samir Nasri, accusing City’s Italian manager of disrespect. Nasri did complete his move from the Emirates to the Etihad, following the path already trodden by Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré and Gaël Clichy.
Wenger was not unhappy at Mancini this time, brushing off his remarks as mild, but his defiance was plain. Van Persie would remain an Arsenal player next season, come what may.
“We will not lose anybody to Manchester City, or to anybody else, because we want to keep our players,” Wenger said. “We want to keep Robin van Persie, that is clear; we will do everything possible to extend his contract, that is clear and, apart from that, I can only let people talk.
“I don’t mind [what Mancini said on Wednesday]. I read what Mancini said. It’s not so bad. At our level, we are professional people. I believe if you are to have one quality, it is not to be unsettled because what is said of you by other clubs is part of the job. I would just like to specify that Robin is not at the end of his contract. He is under contract until 2013.”
Wenger acknowledged that one option open to Arsenal would be to hold Van Persie to the final year of his contract, because the risk of losing him on a Bosman free transfer was countered by the benefit of having him for another season. Wenger made a similar declaration over Nasri last summer, only for the club to eventually sanction the midfielder’s £24m sale. Arsenal might reason that the fee they would be able to command for Van Persie, who turns 29 in August and has a history of injuries, would be less.
“I was very adamant [over Nasri at the time] but at the end of the day, it was a difficult situation to manage,” Wenger said. “We had the players and we felt after the pre-season tour that [Aaron] Ramsey and [Jack] Wilshere could work in midfield and we could add somebody more, and if a player didn’t want to extend, where do we go from there … but we’ll see. We do our best to keep our best players.”
Wenger, whose team host Newcastle United on Monday night, said that the expected arrival of the Germany striker Lukas Podolski at the end of the season from Köln would have no bearing on Van Persie’s future. “Our plan is to keep Van Persie, even if we buy any player,” he said.
Wenger, who was interested in signing Podolski from Bayern Munich in 2008, said he hoped to be able to confirm the signing in “two or three weeks”. “He can play for us because he can play central, right and left,” Wenger added. “He has 96 caps for Germany [95 in fact] and is 26 years old, which is the best age.”