Robin van Persie has called on Arsenal to make the "final step" and become champions next season, writes Jim van Wijk.
Arsenal opened up the Premier League title race when they beat Manchester United 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, meaning the leaders are now only three points ahead of Chelsea, whom they host this weekend. Arsene Wenger's men, though, look likely to have no further say in the destiny of the championship after a series of draws in their recent 16-game unbeaten run left them with too much to do.
However, the battling victory over United, achieved without their injured captain, Cesc Fabregas, has at least renewed the squad's battered self-confidence as they look to fend off FA Cup finalists Manchester City and secure automatic Champions League qualification by finishing third.
While Van Persie (27) accepts that another season of "what might have been" is difficult to take, the 19-goal Dutchman insists Arsenal can rise to the challenge in 2012.
"It is time to make that final step," Van Persie said yesterday. "We came so close a couple of times and achieved a Carling Cup final this year, but we need to play at least two or three finals and be involved in those circumstances.
"If you look at Manchester United, we can be better than them but they are most likely in the final of the Champions League, have a big chance of winning the Premier League and were in the semi-final of the FA Cup. We want to be in those positions and it's up to us to do that."
Van Persie also feels Arsenal have paid a heavy price for not being able to get maximum points from encounters against the likes of Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers.
This was despite beating Chelsea and United at home, as well as recording a famous Champions League last 16 first-leg victory over Barcelona in February.
"If you look back at a couple of games this year, like Sunday or against Chelsea, we didn't make these big games count because we dropped points against other teams," Van Persie said. "It makes it very frustrating."
The Dutchman continued: "The win over United was needed, as it was about pride and honour.
"If we had lost and Manchester City won their game in hand, they could have gone over us, which would have been a disaster, basically."