Van Persie: We need to toughen up
Robin van Persie maintains Arsenal need to "toughen up" next season. The Gunners saw another campaign end without a trophy - the fifth in succession - as they failed to last the distance both in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
While some of that was down to the loss of key men like Van Persie and captain Cesc Fabregas - again linked with a move to Barcelona - at various stages to injury, on more than one occasion Arsenal also could not produce a big performance when it really mattered. After overcoming defeats by Manchester United and Chelsea to force themselves back into contention, what would have been crucial points were thrown away at Birmingham City, followed by away defeats at Tottenham Hotspur and then Wigan Athletic, where they had led 2-0 with only ten minutes left.
Van Persie, who returned to action at White Hart Lane in mid-April after some five months on the sidelines because of a serious knee injury, feels the Gunners need to make sure they can emulate the courageous effort shown in getting results at places like Stoke City and Hull City if they are to produce another serious title challenge.
"I just think we need to toughen up," the Dutchman declared. "We need to make it clear to people: 'if you want to play football, we can play football. If you want to play hard, we can play hard.'
"We can do that, we have it within ourselves, but we need to do it consistently, because if we don't, we lose points and give the wrong message."
Manager Arsene Wenger admits he will need to add a couple of players over the summer to help move the squad on to the next level. Morocco striker Marouane Chamakh is to complete a free transfer from Bordeaux, while England keeper Robert Green, Fulham centre-half Brede Hangeland, Senegal international Pape Diakhate and Barcelona's defensive midfielder Yaya Toure are all reported targets.
Veteran former captain Sol Campbell, who led Arsenal through their unbeaten campaign of 2003/04, should provide some much-needed experience in the dressing room if a deal on a one-year contract extension can be agreed. However, new deals for William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre are by no means certain to develop.
Nevertheless, Arsenal's rivals for Champions League qualification are all set to strengthen and Van Persie does not want Arsenal to be left behind. "You can see the other teams are all improving," he said. We need some here and there too, we need a couple of players and we need to go ahead with that.
"You look at teams like Man City and Spurs - they are all coming up now. This year was an open league, but you never know what will happen next season. I think everyone realises that we need a bit of help in a few areas."