Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits they have to do everything in their power to keep captain Robin van Persie at the club. The Holland striker scored twice, the second in added time, to snatch a 2-1 win at Anfield in a game in which his side had been outplayed by Liverpool for long periods.
Van Persie, who will not open negotiations on an extension to the contract which expires in 2013 until this summer, showed just how valuable he is to the Gunners by taking his tally to 25 goals in as many league matches.
“We will do anything possible to keep him,” said Wenger. “I am very proud that he has grown, having seen the boy arrive here timid and today being the player he is and the leader of the team he has become. He is up there among the best players in the world.”
In truth Arsenal could have been out of the game by half-time had goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny not made a great double save to deny Dirk Kuyt from the penalty spot and also turn a Luis Suarez shot behind.
Suarez and Kuyt also hit the post in the opening 45 minutes and Wenger admitted they were fortunate to go into the interval at 1-1 after Van Persie’s header cancelled out Laurent Koscielny’s own goal.
“It was vital for us to win the game,” added Wenger. “I must say it is hard for Liverpool to lose the game, they had a very good first half and we were not in the game. We hung on and played as well as we could and our goalkeeper and our centre-forward made the difference.
“What was flattering for us was to be 1-1 at half-time and in the second half I thought it was much more level.”
Wenger praised Szczesny for his role in the victory. “It is good he had a performance like that because he had a little bit of a difficult period in January but he has shown his potential and I like he was brave as well – he had a lot of kicking and coming out to do – and he didn’t make a mistake.”
It was not all positive for the Gunners, with Mikel Arteta taken to hospital with a neck problem after colliding with Jordan Henderson while Abou Diaby, Yossi Benayoun and Kieran Gibbs all picked up injuries.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish tried to remain upbeat despite seeing a sixth penalty of the season squandered and the woodwork hit for the 21st time.
“If you want to gauge it on points then it is a big disappointment but if you want to gauge it on performance I think they were fantastic,” said the Scot.
“I think we are competitive all right. I think those stats tell you we are attack-minded and can create chances and get penalties – the next bit is to be ugly and get a winning goal.
“To come away without three points is disappointing. The performance was outstanding – if we get a bit of luck it will make a difference.”