herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Van Persie off the hook and hot to Trot

Arsenal captain Robin van Persie will be free to lead the Gunners' fight to get back into the Premier League top four after facing no further action over a stray elbow in his clash with Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar during Sunday's FA Cup fourth round tie at Emirates Stadium.

Villa boss Alex McLeish called for the English Football Association to take retrospective action against the Dutchman for what he claimed was a "clear elbow" on the Spaniard, but match referee Mike Jones has told disciplinary officials he saw the incident and decided it was not worthy of punishment.

Van Persie could have been landed with an FA charge and subsequent ban, but the 25-goal striker is now in the clear as Arsenal look to close back on Chelsea when they travel to struggling Bolton tomorrow night.

The Dutchman's two second-half penalties helped turn around Sunday's tie, when the Gunners trailed 2-0 at the break.

Winger Theo Walcott, meanwhile, feels Arsenal's luck has finally changed.

Walcott, who scored against Villa, feels Arsenal can head to Bolton confident of putting three straight league defeats behind them as they aim to close back on the top four.

"Hopefully something came out of us that we can turn into Premier League form, which hasn't been great lately. Hopefully our luck has changed now," he said. "It was a good thing that it was the FA Cup. It is totally different to the Premier League. We needed a slight break."

Walcott continued: "We have a lot of regret from recent (league) games because we should have won them."

Walcott feels the FA Cup is a competition Arsenal -- who have not lifted a trophy since 2005 -- can go on to win in May, but warned against any premature dreams of Wembley.

The England forward, 22, said: "If we do start thinking a bit too far ahead, maybe we will be disappointed at the end of it.

"However, this is a cup competition that we can win and we need to believe that we can.

"But our priority is not that now, it is Wednesday's game. That's what everybody is like in the dressing room.

"It was a great result for us but everyone will go home, put their feet up and then travel and go again on Wednesday.

"Bolton is going to be tough because they are coming off the back of a few good results."

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