Wenger: New buys will not replace Van Persie

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played down speculation over the future of captain Robin van Persie on Friday, saying the club intended to keep their in-form striker amid interest from Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The 28-year-old Dutchman, who has scored 32 goals in all competitions this term, said last month he was putting contract talks on hold until the end of the season and City have said they would be keen on signing him if those discussions fail.

Media reports have widely linked Arsenal with a move for Cologne forward Lukas Podolski but Wenger denied a deal was in place and emphasised that any new purchases would work with Van Persie rather than replace him.

"Our plan is to keep Robin van Persie even if we buy any player," Wenger told a news conference.

"Robin is the leader of our club and I would just like to specify that he is not at the end of his contract. He is under contract until 2013."

He added Van Persie was not being distracted by the transfer talk surrounding him, which has included Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini saying that while the striker was likely to stay put, his club would be interested if he wanted to leave.

"I believe if you are to have one quality it is not to be unsettled because what is said of you by other clubs is part of the job," Wenger said.

"What is important is how much you want to win the next game and all the rest is basically not important.

"I cannot stop that [others talking about Van Persie]. In an ideal world maybe, but it doesn't bother me too much."

Arsenal are expected to revamp their squad in the close season after what is likely to be a seventh successive trophyless year.

They were knocked out of the Champions League this week despite a spirited fightback in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie against AC Milan and are out of contention for the Premier League title.

Their main priority for the rest of the season is to secure a top-four finish in the league to give them the chance of Champions League football next term.

Sitting fourth with 49 points from 27 matches, they are three points ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea and will be looking to maintain that advantage when they host Newcastle United on Monday.