ARSENAL (2) vs SUNDERLAND (1)
Dutch striker’s brace ensures a much needed victory but Arsenal manager can offer no guarantees that his star man will stay beyond current season
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger admits he doesn’t know whether Robin van Persie will sign a new contract after the captain underlined his importance to the Gunners with a match-winning brace against Sunderland.
Van Persie scored the fastest Premier League goal this season after 29 seconds and, following former Arsenal midfielder Sebastian Larsson’s superb equaliser, clinched three points with a late curling free-kick.
The Dutchman, whose current contract expires at the end of next season, attempted to allay fears he could reject a new contract offer and become the latest big name to desert the Emirates Stadium.
However he stopped short of pledging his future to the north London club and Wenger admitted that, despite being keen to tie down Van Persie, the in-form striker could refuse to extend his stay.
“Unfortunately the ideal situation in football does not exist often. The ideal situation is that he extends his contract but if he doesn’t you have to respect that,” said Wenger.
“He knows that we are ready to talk about it but the most important thing is today and how much you are committed to the cause as long as you are at the club.”
Van Persie, who has scored seven goals in 11 games for Arsenal this season, when asked whether he saw his future at the club he joined in 2004 said: “I’m committed. This is my eighth year. If you can say of one player that he’s committed, it’s me.”
A fifth successive home win lifted the fragile Gunners up to 10th in the table and Wenger also had goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to thank for an outstanding point-blank save from Lee Cattermole that kept the score at 1-1.
Van Persie again stole the show, however, and terrorised the visitors’ defence from the first minute, when he latched onto Gervinho’s pass and drilled a low finish under Black Cats goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
The Holland star lashed another shot just past the post as the home side chased a second goal, but it was Sunderland who scored next, Larsson whipping a brilliant free-kick into the top-left corner on 31 minutes.
Szczesny spread himself to deny Cattermole when the midfielder looked certain to score but Arsenal seemed to be heading for a disappointing draw until Van Persie swept a set-piece of his own over the wall and into the top corner of Mignolet’s net.
“We have now won five home games on the trot. If we can put another two or three results together it will help confidence because you can feel that the attitude and spirit of the team is great,” Wenger added.