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Wenger aims to keep Van Persie

ARSENAL are determined to have captain Robin van Persie spearhead their attack alongside expected summer recruit Lukas Podolski next season -- even if it means allowing him to leave for nothing next year.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has fuelled speculation of another big-money raid on the Emirates for the Holland striker, who has yet to sign a contract extension, hailing the Gunners skipper as "one of the best strikers in Europe".

Those public comments from a rival manager have not been well received by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who over the past few years has seen Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri all join City for significant wage increases.


Van Persie, who has netted 32 goals in a standout individual campaign, insists he is comfortable waiting until the end of the season before sitting down with Arsenal to try to thrash out a new deal.

The Gunners hope he can be persuaded to sign a four-year contract that will keep him at the club until he is 33, and are willing to offer him a £5million loyalty bonus as well as wages of around £100,000 a week.

Arsenal's hand would undoubtedly be strengthened by the offer of Champions League football, with Wenger's side now focused on delivering a top-four finish having bowed out of Europe to AC Milan on Tuesday.

Left-back Kieran Gibbs has urged the Gunners to maintain the momentum built up in recent weeks.

He said: "People don't realise that we basically had half a squad at one stage and the team was down to its bare bones. Obviously now we have a bigger squad, we can rotate more, players won't be as tired and the team looks a lot stronger. You can obviously see the benefits from that."