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Arsenal lack mental strength to compete for trophies, says Van Persie

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The Gunners may be through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup but their former striker feels the club needs to strengthen at the back

The Gunners made it through to the last four of the FA Cup on Sunday, defeating Sheffield United 2-1 at Bramall Lane thanks to a stoppage-time winner from substitute Dani Ceballos.

However, the late goal helped overshadow the shoddy defending that had allowed United to draw level in the closing minutes, Sead Kolasinac’s weak clearance hitting Shkodran Mustafi to inadvertently set up David McGoldrick.

Arsenal have conceded 41 goals in 31 Premier League games and, while supporting Arteta’s appointment, Van Persie feels reinforcements are required to strengthen a long-standing area of weakness.

“What I believe is it is very important for Arsenal and for Mikel to find a way to fix the set pieces,” the former Arsenal and Manchester United forward said while speaking alongside Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport.

“Corners, set pieces, crosses, you’re always holding your breath and thinking: ‘Arsenal might concede’. You fix that with mental toughness.

“It’s like when I played with you [Ferdinand] and Vida [Nemanja Vidic], you would die to save the ball. You would put your head first, you would give everything to block the ball.

“That mentality is needed to compete for trophies. To be honest, I don’t really see that now and that’s not new either, we talked about this before and it was even an issue in my time there.

“You need to find defenders who want to do absolutely everything to block that ball. They should try to find those types of defenders.

“I’m not saying these guys are bad, but there is another level up if you want to win trophies.”

David Luiz made his return to action in the FA Cup following his red card in the Premier League defeat at Manchester City.

The Brazilian centre-back played 54 minutes before going off with an ankle injury – Arteta revealed the player will be assessed on Monday in his post-match interview – after signing a new one-year deal this week.

Van Persie, however, is not convinced, suggesting before kick-off he would be attempting to rough up the defender if he was in the opposing team.

“If you play against him, I would go at him, almost try to bully him and to make physical contact with him and move around him, try to tease him a little bit because he is vulnerable,” the Dutchman said.

“The first job you have to do is to defend, be solid and be trustworthy. If you have extra, you can dribble, do some nice passes, perfect. But he needs to focus on his job.”

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PICTURES: Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell join Chelsea training

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Chelsea returned to training today (Wednesday) at Cobham, and there were two new faces joining the rest of the squad, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell. The two summer arrivals had yet to train with the squad since signing, dealing with quarantine (presumably) and heel injury issues, respectively.

It’s unclear if either will be fit and ready for this weekend’s match against Liverpool, but it’s still nice to see them in training with the rest of the group! (Those who played on Monday apparently had a lighter session, but were all out there nonetheless.)

There’s no word on how close Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic may be. Ziyech is probably still a couple weeks out with his knee problem, at least, but Pulisic was supposed to be close before suffering a potential setback with his hamstring late last week. Neither were pictured in training, and one would assume their presence would get emphasized had they been there.

Pointing the way Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Pointing the way Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

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