Wenger ready for van Persie talks

Arsene Wenger will this week hold talks with Arsenal captain Robin van Persie over the striker’s future after victory at West Brom secured Champions League football for next season.

Arsenal made certain of third place in the Barclays Premier League with a 3-2 win at the Hawthorns, to finish ahead of north London rivals Tottenham.

It completed a remarkable transformation, with Arsenal lying 17th at the start of October and well adrift of Spurs early in the year.

Van Persie said yesterday: “We will have a chat next week and we will go from there.”

Wenger was also careful not to make any bold statements but confirmed he intends to speak with Van Persie before he links up with the Dutch squad for Euro 2012.

When asked if Champions League football would bolster his hopes of keeping Van Persie, Wenger said: “It is easier to attract good players and keep them.”

Van Persie spent plenty of time applauding travelling supporters after the final whistle against West Brom.

Wenger said: “You can make of that what you want. If the player doesn’t go out and celebrate, you say he has gone.

“If he goes out and stays with the fans it’s as if he is saying goodbye. I believe it is rather a positive sign.”

Wenger has spoke of his pride at Arsenal qualifying for a 15th successive season of Champions League football.

He said: “The mental solidity, the unity and solidarity inside the club has been tested. We didn’t show any weakness and kept united.

“In the end, we came back. I cannot say the season has been a failure. We have qualified for the 15th time. Only three clubs have done that in Europe.

“We were 17th in the league and in the first seven games we had lost four of them. It’s very difficult then to imagine you can finish third.

“But we have had an exceptional run after our Champions League exit.”

Yossi Benayoun, Andre Santos and Laurent Koscielny netted against the Baggies.

New England head coach Roy Hodgson paid tribute to West Brom’s fans after the final whistle as his reign at the Hawthorns came to an end.

Hodgson said: “This is a fantastic football club with a great tradition and even in the rough times, I felt the fans were behind us.

“You deserve another year in the Premier League and I would like to thank all the staff and players for their support during this past 15 months.”

West Brom assistant boss Keith Downing backed goalkeeper Marton Fulop, who replaced the injured Ben Foster and was to blame for all of Arsenal’s goals.

Downing said: “Martin is devastated. He is a genuine guy. We had no reservations about playing him. He sets high standards and knows one or two of the goals were down to him.”

Shane Long and Graham Dorrans netted for West Brom.

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