NAL 1 vs MANCHESTER UNITED 1
ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger insists he had no problem with his players inviting Robin van Persie into the home dressing room after yesterday’s game, despite the former Gunners striker denting their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Van Persie tucked away a penalty on the stroke of half-time after Arsenal had taken a second minute lead through Theo Walcott. The result sees Arsenal drop to fourth in the Premier League table, while bitter rivals Tottenham have a game in hand.
On his first return to the Emirates Stadium since walking out on Arsenal to join Manchester United last summer, Van Persie was given a hostile reception by the home fans – yet his old team-mates were more forgiving.
“He’s in our dressing room at the moment,” Wenger revealed shortly after the final whistle. “You want to give absolutely everything during the 90 minutes, and after the game you can still talk to each other.”
The Arsenal manager maintains that the friendly relations do not reveal a lessening in the rivalry between the two sides. “[These are] people who played together for five or six years,” he added. “We are rivals, but you want us to make a guard of honour and respect the champions [before the game] so you have to accept as well that respect exists after the game.”
Wenger’s team came flying out of the blocks and were ahead after two minutes when Tomas Rosicky played Walcott through on goal. The pacey winger may have been offside, yet the flag stayed down and he side-footed the ball past David de Gea.
Van Persie, who picked up a first-half booking for a sliding challenge on Per Mertesacker, had a superb chance to equalise on 39 minutes, but his point-blank header hit goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the face. Four minutes later, however, Bacary Sagna gave the ball away in his own half and, seeking to make amends, sprinted back and lunged at Van Persie in the area. The Dutch international stepped up and drove a left-footed penalty into the corner, past Szczesny’s outstretched arm.