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May 3, 2011

Van Persie targets fresh title tilt

Robin van Persie insists Arsenal are ready to make the ''final step'' next season and claim the Premier League title.

• Wenger: United still favourites
• Szczesny: Wenger best in world

Arsenal blew the race for the Premier League wide open when they beat Manchester United 1-0 at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, meaning the leaders now face Chelsea on Sunday with just a three-point gap at the top.

Arsene Wenger's men surrendered their title aspirations with draws against Liverpool and Tottenham before their defeat at Bolton Wanderers ended a 16-game unbeaten run.

However, the battling victory over United - achieved without injured captain Cesc Fabregas - has at least renewed the squad's battered self-confidence as they look to fend off FA Cup finalists Manchester City and secure automatic Champions League qualification.

While Van Persie, 27, accepts another season of what might have been is difficult to take, the 19-goal Dutchman insists Arsenal can rise to the challenge in 2012. ''It is time to make that final step,'' Van Persie told Arsenal TV Online.

''We came so close a couple of times and achieved a [Carling Cup] final this year, but we need to play at least two or three finals and be involved in those circumstances.

''If you look at Manchester United, we can be better than them but they are [most likely] in the final of the Champions League, have a big chance of winning the Premier League and were in the semi-final of the FA Cup. We want to be in those positions and it's up to us to do that.''

Van Persie also feels Arsenal have paid a heavy price for not being able to get maximum points from encounters against the likes of Sunderland and Blackburn, while beating Chelsea and United at home, as well as recording a famous Champions League last-16 first-leg victory over Barcelona in February.

''If you look back at a couple of games this year, like Sunday or against Chelsea, we didn't let these big games count because we dropped points against other teams,'' Van Persie said. ''It makes it very frustrating.

''The win over United was needed, as it was about pride and honour. If we had lost and Manchester City won their game in hand, they could have gone over us, which would have been a disaster, basically.''

Arsenal hope Fabregas will shake off his thigh injury to make the trip to Stoke on Sunday, with Samir Nasri (hamstring) and centre-half Johan Djourou (leg) also concerns.

Off the pitch, American tycoon Stan Kroenke must this week send out formal documents for his proposed takeover, having taken his holding up to 63% after buying stakes from late Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith.

However, the deal is by no means done, with major shareholder Alisher Usmanov indicating he may hold onto his 27%, while the likes of Arsenal Supporters Trust have urged all minority shareholders not to sell as they believe the club should not be owned by any single individual.

Arsenal have also announced a three-year partnership deal with home appliance manufacturer Indesit ''to help drive their business in the UK and throughout Europe'', which will start at the pre-season Emirates Cup on July 30.

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