RVP: Time to make the final step

The Gunners blew the title race wide open 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

injured captain Cesc Fabregas – has at least renewed the squad’s

battered self-confidence as they look to fend of FA Cup finalists

Manchester City and secure automatic Champions League

qualification. While van Persie, 27, accepts 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 told Arsenal TV Online. “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, while 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 let 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.”

Arsenal hope Fabregas will shake off his thigh injury to make the

trip to Stoke on Sunday, with Samir Nasri (hamstring) and

centre-half Johan Djourou (leg) also concerns. Off the pitch,

American tycoon Stan Kroenke must this week send out formal

documents for his proposed takeover, having taken his holding up to

63% after buying stakes from late Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina

Bracewell-Smith. However, the deal is buy no means done, with major

shareholder Alisher Usmanov indicating he may hold onto his 27%,

while the likes of Arsenal Supporters Trust have urged all minority

shareholders not to sell as they believe the club should not be

owned by any single individual. Arsenal, meanwhile, have announced

a three-year partnership deal with home appliance manufacturer

Indesit “to help drive their business in the UK and throughout

Europe”, which will start at the pre-season Emirates Cup on July