• Premier League

Wenger wary of 'exceptional' Van Persie

ESPN staff
November 3, 2012
Robin van Persie and Arsene Wenger during their time at Arsenal together © Getty Images

Arsene Wenger is wary of the threat posed by former Arsenal skipper Robin van Persie as the Gunners prepare to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Van Persie moved to United in a £24 million transfer last summer, following a stunning season in which he netted 37 goals for Arsenal in all competitions. Though Wenger says his team know what to expect from the striker, he fears shutting down a player of Van Persie's ilk is another matter.

"Robin van Persie has a great quality in the fraction of a second that he understands where to go - you can talk and talk and talk, but defenders have to read that at the same time," Wenger explained.

"His speed of analysing those little pockets around the box are absolutely exceptional. The team know him as well because they have played against him in training. But in the game it is a question of timing - how quickly will they read it as well as he reads it?"

The last time Arsenal visited Old Trafford they suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat last August. Wenger insists the result occurred under "exceptional circumstances" after a Champions League qualifier in Italy and will not be repeated this weekend.

"There is purely an emotional aspect in the 8-2, but there is no mathematical consequence. We lost a game, that is all," he said.

"The football aspect was easy to explain. We gave everything in Udinese three days before in 35 degrees at night and I knew that we would be dead. We lost vital defensive players in that game. We went out very exposed, but the most important game of the week was at Udinese.

"With 20 minutes to go at Old Trafford, it was 4-1, and I decided to try to come back with 10 men and we were already dead.

"Of course after that we paid for it, so maybe I should have kept it tight and go out with 4-1 and say 'thank-you very much, see you next week'. But I want to do what gives us the best chance to win games - when you make teams, you cannot go against nature.

"You cannot play with (Jack) Wilshere, (Santi) Cazorla and (Mikel) Arteta and say 'look, we only defend'. They would say 'what are we doing on the football pitch then?'

"Somewhere your style is dictated by the players you pick. Sometimes you are right when you don't win, but also sometimes maybe you have to learn not to lose first before you can win a game, you give a bit more security to the team and I have done that as well. But still our basic philosophy is to go forward and attack."

Meanwhile, Wenger's United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he nearly signed Van Persie 11 years ago. But while the Dutchman was not picked up as a teenager, Ferguson believes he ultimately moved to Old Trafford at the right time in his career.

"He was a kid, he was only 16, 17 at the time," Ferguson said. "We sent Jim Ryan to see him play for Feyenoord and he was sent off in the game. Jim said he was a fantastic talent but he's a little immature. But at 16 they are all immature.

"We didn't progress it and then he got to Arsenal. I never thought we'd get him until he came out and said he wasn't signing a contract for Arsenal. Then it was a matter of working hard with Arsene and myself. I phoned him quite a few times and eventually we got an agreement.

"It was very amicable. Arsene made his case for the player. He worked hard to try to get him to stay. Once he accepted he was going to go he made sure we paid them plenty of money, but if he had been under contract for more than a year we would never have got him."

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