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'We came very, very close'

It’s been a funny old season for Arsenal: they looked like they were going to challenge for the league title, but instead might now end up in fourth place, suffering the indignity of having to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. They have won only three games out of 16 since they lost the Carling Cup final to Birmingham City and were booed by their own fans during the lap of honour which followed their last home game of the season – which they lost.

One of the main things you’ll have heard from any Gooner over the last few years is that if only they could have kept Robin van Persie fit, they’d have won it all. However this is total rubbish – and never forget to tell any Arsenal fan this – because the Dutchman’s in the form of his life right now; right in the middle of the Gunners’ woeful run.

Van Persie has scored 21 goals in 25 starts after missing the first two and a half months with an ankle injury, and he still believes that Arsene Wenger’s philosophy will bear fruit, despite the fact that there has never been a football team in history that has won anything without guts and fight, and no amount of pretty passing triangles is going to change that. He has also defended his decision to play one up front, saying that it worked for Barcelona and AS Roma (who won nothing playing that way, as it happens).

‘I don't feel lonely up front,’ Van Persie said, ‘because I have Cesc (Fábregas) around me, I have (Jack) Wilshere, I have Samir Nasri, (Andrey) Arshavin, (Theo) Walcott. It's true that it's a modern take on Total Football and if you look at teams around Europe ... AS Roma have played similarly with (Francesco) Totti in that role; there is Barcelona, obviously, with (Lionel) Messi; ourselves, the Netherlands, during the World Cup, I was playing in a similar role and Ajax have made a change there, too. Siem de Jong is not a main striker, he is more of a midfielder but he played there and they became champions so you can't really go against that.

‘We came very, very close to being champions and if you look at our games against the big (top four) teams, we are first in that small league. We need to be more consistent because we have everything in our team. If you look at Barcelona, they are playing four or five top games after each other and that's what our aim should be as well.’

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