Premier League

Wenger wants Van Persie for life

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Arsene Wenger knows just what an "exceptional" talent he has in Arsenal captain Robin van Persie - and wants the Dutchman to stay at the club for the rest of his career.

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The in-form striker took his tally for 2011 to 30 goals with a brace as the Gunners came from behind to win 2-1 at Norwich on Saturday and maintain their march up the Barclays Premier League table.

First, van Persie - who had netted a hat-trick at Chelsea before the international break - tapped in from close range after good work by Theo Walcott to cancel out Steve Morison's shock opener.

His second was an exquisite finish after being played into the right side of the Norwich penalty area following what was a fine advantage from referee Phil Dowd after a foul on Aaron Ramsey.

And Wenger feels there are few better in the modern game than the Gunners number 10.

"Robin has some competitors there but he is one of the best of course," said the Arsenal manager.

"He is exceptional and has something that you cannot give to people.

"For the second goal, he finished with a chip on his right foot - and I have never seen a bigger left-footed player than Robin van Persie.

"He always makes the right decisions in a fraction of a second when there is little time available, that makes him exceptional."

Van Persie, 28, has yet to commit his long-term future to the Gunners, with indications the Holland striker is unlikely to start any contract talks under the end of the season.

Wenger said: "My dream is that van Persie stays until the end of his career at this club.

"I will do the maximum I can to try to convince him and I hope I will manage to do that."

Wenger also used Saturday's post-match press conference to put to bed reports emanating from French newspaper L'Equipe he was contemplating leaving his post.

The 62-year-old Frenchman continues to have the full backing of Arsenal's board and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke as he masterminds a recovery from what had been the most testing starts of his 15-season tenure.

Wenger said: "It was nothing in my mind especially, just the fact that the journalist asked me if I would ever leave the club. I said the only way I could do it if I feel I am a pain for the club.

"I can return this question to you - what do you expect of me?

"We want to play football that makes Arsenal proud and that gives enjoyment to people who come and watch us."

Arsenal dominated the opening exchanges at Carrow Road, where Norwich defender Russell Martin first cleared Theo Walcott's curling shot off the line and was then on hand to hack away an angled drive from Gervinho.

The home side grabbed a shock lead completely against the run of play on 16 minutes when German defender Per Mertesacker was outmuscled by Morison as he hesitated on the edge of the Arsenal area, which allowed the Wales forward to crash the Canaries ahead with his third goal in as many games.

Wenger feels 6ft 4in Mertesacker will be wiser for the experience.

"I told Per that when you are in England facing goal, maybe in many countries you are safe but not here. That's what he has learned," he said..

Despite all of Norwich's endeavour, it seemed only a matter of time before Arsenal were in front - as Ramsey fired into the sidenetting and Gervinho then failed to round the keeper when clean through.

Van Persie, though, showed his team-mates how it should be done with a sublime finish on the hour, chipping over the advancing John Ruddy after being put through by Alex Song to bag an eighth goal in four games.

Norwich have proved a resilient side on their return to the top flight under Paul Lambert, but could not craft an equaliser, as Anthony Pilkington just failed to connect with a cross at the near post in the home sides best second-half opening.

Lambert, though, continues to take plenty of positives.

"Arsenal are a top side, have some world-class players, with one of the best strikers around at the minute," he said.

"But we stayed in the game and got the goal, which gives everyone belief."

"That [Pilkington] chance was the one we probably have to score.

"With the level we are at, you have to be clinical in both boxes, if you are not, then it can come back and hurt you."
 

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