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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 29, 2007

Fit Van Persie like a 'new signing' - Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hopes having a fully-fit Robin van Persie back in action next month will be just like landing a 'new signing'.

The Holland striker is currently sidelined by a muscular problem, and will miss both today's early evening televised Premier League clash at Everton, as well as the visit of West Ham on New Year's Day.

However, Wenger believes when the 24-year-old - who had been hampered by a knee injury earlier in the campaign - does eventually return, it will add something extra to the Gunners attack.

'I believe it is a short-term problem, a muscular problem - but we need patience,' said the Arsenal manager.

'It is a small injury - but if you want to win a horse race you need your horse to be 100%.

'We have played 19 games and he has played eight, but we are still one point off the leader and when he comes back we can finish in a stronger position.

'He will be like a new signing - that is why we do not buy.'

Wenger firmly believes his squad has enough strength in depth to last the pace in the title race this season and insists he would only take the 'bargain of the century' when the transfer window opens in January.

Johan Djourou is set to return from his loan spell at Birmingham to bolster the defence, which will lose Kolo Toure to the African Nations Cup, as well as winger Emmanuel Eboue.

Wenger said: 'We have Johan Djourou coming back from Birmingham, as we lose Kolo and Eboue too - but in midfield we have plenty of players who can play.'

The Arsenal manager maintained: 'We have a big squad. We won at Blackburn (in the Carling Cup) with 10 different players from the game we played before and I also did not have Van Persie, (Theo) Walcott or Gilberto. So we are not short.

'We are a very young squad, but a very talented one.'

Wenger believes this season's title race will go right to the wire and that it will require a Herculean effort to finish top of the pile.

He said: 'We have 44 points and if you multiply that, we would have 88. It is not bad - but I do not know if that would be enough to win the title. At the moment, it does not look like it would.

'We are one point short of Manchester United and have lost once in 19 games. It is down to who is the most consistent. Even Chelsea and Liverpool can come back.'

Arsenal surrendered their lead at the top of the table following a goalless draw at Portsmouth on Boxing Day.

It was the first time the Gunners had failed to score in the Premier League this season, and was a third league away game without a win.

Wenger is anticipating another stern examination of his side's title credentials against the sixth-placed Toffees.

He said: 'When we have had our backs to the wall many times at the start of the season, they have responded.

'I do not believe the pressure will play a part. As long as we play as well as we can, we have a great togetherness in the side and we have great talent.'