NAL striker Robin van Persie has added further spice to tomorrow’s north London derby by revealing he begged manager Arsene Wenger to sign Rafael van der Vaart.
Holland playmaker Van der Vaart has been a revelation at Tottenham since joining in September and will pose the visitors’ biggest threat when they clash at Emirates Stadium. But the mercurial midfielder could have been dancing through defences in an Arsenal shirt instead, had Van Persie succeeded in persuading Wenger to move for his international team-mate.
“He’s a great footballer,” said Van Persie. “I know the quality he has. I’d rather have him at Arsenal. I indicated a couple of times Rafael would be useful for Arsenal but that advice was not followed. I regret the fact he wasn’t signed, but it is the right of the club. This is just my opinion. Now you can see the result. Spurs were a good team but now they are a top team.”
Van Persie and Van der Vaart were team-mates for Holland two days ago but are now preparing to do battle in a lunchtime kick-off that could see the Gunners go top of the Premier League, at least for a few hours.
The Arsenal forward played 45 minutes in that friendly win against Turkey as he steps up his recovery from injury, and is in contention for a first start since 28 August.
Wenger is hopeful midfielder Jack Wilshere will recover from a back problem. Spurs striker Jermain Defoe, who also missed England’s friendly defeat to France, is back in training and could be set to return.
Other international colleagues crossing swords tomorrow: Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri take on fellow France stars Younes Kaboul and William Gallas; Russians Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko, Cameroon’s Alex Song and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.