Robin van Persie is ready to start talks about staying with Arsenal
ARSENAL are hopeful of finally opening contract talks with Robin van Persie and his representatives over the next month.
The club captain and talisman is out of contract next year and has so far refused to publicly discuss his long-term future, but the indications are that he is now prepared to hold provisional talks with the Arsenal hierarchy.
It remains unlikely that any deal will be finalised before the end of the season — and there is clarity over Arsenal’s Champions League status — but Van Persie’s willingness to listen would still be an extremely positive step forward for the club.
It is understood that Arsenal are considering an offer whereby Van Persie would be paid a substantial ‘renewal’ fee in addition to significantly improved terms on a salary that is currently around £80,000 a week.
Van Persie will be aware that other players of comparable world-class quality are on around double that wage, with Arsenal considering a rise that would take him beyond £100,000 a week.
Arsenal have around £55?million available to invest in the squad and must balance the desire to renew Van Persie’s contract with having funds to spend this summer on new players.
Wenger’s budget includes player wages, creating a quandary over how much money is directed towards the renewal of contracts.
Even if Van Persie does not accept the likely offer from Arsenal of a four-year contract, his departure this summer is not a foregone conclusion.
Arsenal seriously considered holding Samir Nasri to his contract last summer and, if the same scenario arises with Van Persie, there will be a strong argument to keep him for another season even if he could then leave for nothing in the summer of 2013.
Van Persie is the Premier League leading goalscorer and, at such a pivotal moment in Arsenal’s history, is clearly of greater short-term importance than Nasri.
With Van Persie turning 29 in August, there is also no guarantee that leading European clubs will be prepared to pay a transfer fee in excess of £20? million.
A significant squad overhaul is under consideration this summer, however, with Andrei Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott all in the final 18 months of their contracts.
The expectation is that talks will also be held with representatives of both Walcott and Rosicky over the next month, with Dick Law, the club’s lead negotiator, now focusing on existing player contracts following the closure of the January transfer window.
Rosicky is expected to agree a one-year contract but, as with Van Persie, the situation with Walcott is unlikely to be resolved until Arsenal’s season has ended.
Preliminary talks have been held between Arsenal and Walcott but no formal offer has been made.
Arshavin appears unlikely to be offered a new contract and, although Anzhi Makhachkala are expected to launch a fresh bid ahead of the closure of the Russian transfer window on Friday, he is likely to stay at Arsenal until at least the end of the season.
Others who could depart on loan before the end of the season include Lukas Fabianski and Ju Young Park.
Arsenal’s strategy in relation to player contracts is likely to be addressed at a board meeting this Thursday that will be attended by Wenger and the club’s majority owner Stan Kroenke.
Arsenal do still have the fourth highest wage bill in the Premier League but there is an argument there should be a larger gap between their stars, such as Van Persie, and more average squad players.
The short-term focus, though, is Sunday’s north London derby against Tottenham and staying ahead of Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle in the battle to finish fourth.
Arsenal have been boosted by the news that Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs should return in defence.
There is also the hope that Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby will still play a part in the run-in to the season.