CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 'COULD SWAY RVP'

Arsene Wenger feels Champions League football could persuade Robin van Persie to stay.

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Van Persie's contract has a year to

Van Persie's contract has a year to

Arsene Wenger knows Champions League football next season would strengthen Arsenal's hand in their bid to extend Robin van Persie's contract.

The Gunners head to West Brom on Sunday needing victory to secure third place, and with it safe passage into the group stages of Europe's elite club competition once again.

The future of captain Van Persie, who has plundered 30 league goals, remains subject for speculation, with the Dutchman set to talk with the club ahead of departure to Euro 2012.

Asked if guaranteeing Champions League football would make it easier to convince Van Persie to sign an extension to his current deal which still has a year to run, Wenger said: "On my side I am inclined to think 'yes', but you should ask him. I don't know whether it will have an influence on him.

"Anyway, we don't focus on just that. Robin is not at the end of his contract."

Wenger feels the Gunners would not necessarily be forced to sell Van Persie, as they did with Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City last summer.

"People speak like our position is not important. Our position is very important," said Wenger.

"Our position with Cesc was to let him go because he wanted to go."

After playing catch-up at the end of the August transfer window, Wenger has already done some early transfer business with the £10million signing of German striker Lukas Podolski.

Wenger believes it will be a "quiet summer", and believes getting the likes of England midfielder Jack Wilshere - who has not kicked a ball in anger this season - fit again will be just as important as any new signings.

"Another way to strengthen for us is to get Wilshere and [Abou] Diaby, who didn't play at all the whole season," said Wenger.

"You look at the number of players - we have 34 players when they all come back. That means you have to pay nine not to play."

Arsenal would have already been secure in third place had they beaten Norwich last weekend, instead of being pegged back in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Yet by the same token, rivals Tottenham were at one stage themselves in the driving seat for automatic qualification, only to suffer from a lack of consistency themselves.

"Both teams have not been capable to do it. We have been in position as well where we were not capable to do it. It can happen. The championship is difficult," said Wenger.

"For example, Norwich played 3-3 against us. We could have won the game, we could have lost the game. They went to Tottenham and won at a period where Tottenham could secure the [third] place. It happened to both Tottenham and us."

Just as much as each club could yet be playing in the Champions League again next season, they could also be dropped down into the Europa League should Chelsea win the European Cup on May 19.

Wenger, though, rejected suggestions the Europa League was a "useless competition".

He said: "You play where you have to and it's better to play there than not at all.

"When you play Thursday night and Sunday it's exactly the same as Wednesday night and Saturday.

"But if you ask me if we prefer the Europa League or Champions League then you are completely right, we want to be in the Champions League, we don't want to be in the Europa League."

Wenger, though, will not be looking for any excuses at The Hawthorns.

"In football you can always find reasons to affect things. On our side, you can say that talking about transfers has an effect," he said.

"You are professionals in our job, we are professionals in our job and to be professional is to perform when you are expected. It's as simple as that."

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