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Wenger: Arsenal have moved on from RVP

Arsene Wenger believes his side have filled the void left by the departed Robin van Persie, but put Arsenal's stuttering start to the season down to the £24 million summer sale of the striker to Manchester United.

• Mangan: Sidetracked by RVP
• Limbert: Striker shortage
• Preview: Arsenal v Man Utd

Ahead of Van Persie's first appearance at the Emirates Stadium as a United player on Sunday, Wenger conceded the sale of the striker he had invested so much time and effort into developing was a major blow to his side's ambitions.

Yet the Arsenal boss is convinced he has now found a solution in a revamped team that is on course to repeat last season's top four finish with just a quartet of games left to play in this Premier League campaign.

"We respect Robin van Persie like every other player who has left us and come back to the Emirates," Wenger said. "I always said that about every single player who left, including some who left in much more controversy than Van Persie.

"In our job you look forward. So many great players have left this club, so if you look back you would be full of regrets. It is always difficult to lose big players. It is more difficult when they are 24 than when they are 29 and have given a few years to the club, but this is the life of a modern footballer.

"Van Persie is a massive talent, a world class player. He has fantastic technique and huge experience as well. He played in a World Cup final, he has huge experience with a national team, he has played in the Champions League. I had no doubt he would adapt very well.

"What we focus on is when big players go, which happened to us many times, we get around it and try to find a new organisation that is efficient. You always miss a big player and I would say it took us a while to get around it.

"The only thing I can say is if you look at the number of goals we scored, it is similar to last year. We had to find a new balance between defending and attacking, but now we have stabilised."

Wenger reiterated his belief that the three-game ban handed to striker Olivier Giroud after his red card at Fulham was 'very harsh' and admitted the he has yet to decide whether to play Theo Walcott or Lukas Podolski in the strikers role as he looks to replace his French marksman.

"Something I have to weigh up is who I will play through the middle," he added. "That is a decision I have to make, but we are on a good run. We have a good opportunity to show we have come forward since we played them at Old Trafford. I am confident we will do it.

"We keep exactly same structure in our team, just the personnel will be a bit different. We will be less strong in the air, that is for sure, but we will try to play with the characteristics and personality of the player we are replacing."

Wenger confirmed that keeper Wojciech Szczesny will start against United on Sunday as Lukasz Fabianski continues to nurse an injury, but he has no new fitness concerns ahead of a game he has warned his side they dare not lose if they are to retain their top four ambitions.

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