London: Robin van Persie has claimed that facing some of the Premier League’s toughest sides during the run-in is a bonus for Arsenal in their bid to finish in the top four.
The Gunners currently occupy third place, the final automatic qualification spot for the Champions League, but Saturday’s 2-1 loss at QPR ended a run of seven straight victories and allowed rivals Tottenham to draw level on points.
Spurs have, what looks on paper, a significantly easier final set of fixtures, with Arsenal hosting Manchester City on Sunday and Chelsea two weeks later, but the Dutch striker feels stiffer competition will bring the best out of him and his team-mates.
“We have seven more games to play and I believe we can come third,” Van Persie told The Daily Mirror. “It won’t be easy, everyone is fighting for every point and our opportunity is next week against Man City. We have to go for it and believe and we will."
“It is a shame we have to wait [until Sunday to face] Manchester City but it is how it is. We have to look forward and the next one is a big one. Even last week when we were three points ahead [of Spurs] with eight games, we never thought it was done. Chelsea won and came closer but we have to look at ourselves."
“Everyone is disappointed but towards the end of the week I am sure the spirit will be how it was. We’ll have a couple of days to be disappointed, but after that our focus is on Manchester City. They are second but drew against Sunderland so they will need the points. We have seven big games to play but if you look at the big-name teams, then we have City and Chelsea. As a fan of football, I always like to play those games and one of them is next week.”
Van Persie is currently on a three-game goalless run after failing to notch against QPR, a rarity in a season where he has netted 26 times already. And the striker put his latest shut-out down to the industry of Mark Hughes' side and Arsenal’s inability to capitalise on the momentum of Theo Walcott’s equaliser.
“It was a tough game. I always thought after Theo scored his goal and we were level, we could win the game. It was just a tough game,” said Van Persie.
Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes his side must replicate their recent success and win their last seven games to guarantee a direct spot in next season’s Champions League group stages.
“We have to win every single game now. That it why it is so disappointing to lose,” Wenger said. “Manchester City is a good opportunity to put things right again of course. I believe that we will see a different Arsenal next Sunday but I can tell you as well that it will be needed. It is disappointing to lose a big run in the way we did. But at the end of the day, the result doesn’t lie.”