Arsene Wenger admits Champions League football next season can be a crucial factor in strengthening Arsenal’s hand in their bid to extend Robin van Persie’s contract.
The Gunners head to West Brom tomorrow needing victory to secure third place, and with it safe passage into the group stages of Europe’s elite club competition once again.
The future of captain van Persie, who has plundered 30 league goals, remains subject for speculation, with the Dutchman set to talk with the club ahead of departure to Euro 2012.
Asked if guaranteeing Champions League football would make it easier to convince van Persie to sign an extension to his current deal, which still has a year to run, Wenger said: “On my side I am inclined to think ‘yes’, but you should ask him. I don’t know whether it will have an influence on him.
“Anyway, we don’t focus on just that. Robin is not at the end of his contract.”
Wenger expects it will be a “quiet summer” transfers wise, and believes getting the likes of England midfielder Jack Wilshere fit again will be just as important as any new signings.
“Another way to strengthen for us is to get Wilshere and [Abou] Diaby, who didn’t play at all the whole season,” said Wenger.
“You look at the number of players — we have 34 players when they all come back. That means you have to pay nine not to play.”
Arsenal would have already been secure in third place had they beaten Norwich last weekend, instead of being pegged back in a 3-3 draw.
Yet by the same token, rivals Tottenham were at one stage themselves in the driving seat for automatic qualification, only to suffer from a lack of consistency themselves.
“Both teams have not been capable to do it. We have been in position as well where we were not capable to do it. It can happen. The championship is difficult,” said Wenger.
Just as much as each club could yet be playing in the Champions League again next season, they could also be dropped down into the Europa League should Chelsea win the European Cup on May 19. Wenger, though, rejected suggestions the Europa League was a “useless competition”.
He said: “You play where you have to and it’s better to play there than not at all.”
Wenger maintains there should be no need for Arsenal to worry about what the Tottenham and Newcastle scores are tomorrow as they look to beat West Brom to win the race for third place.
That Arsenal are even in this position given their appalling start, one that included an 8-2 defeat at Manchester United.
Defender Laurent Koscielny admitted it had been a “catastrophic” start, but one from which the Gunners deserve credit to have recovered.
He said: “We had to put the house back in order, and everyone did their bit: the coach, the club, because we were in a critical situation. We got back to work, we told each other the things that needed to be told; after which, one win, two wins, confidence comes back, and things follow from then on.”
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