In recent years, when it comes to holding onto their best talent, Arsenal have a terrible record - which doesn't bode well for them in their bid to keep Robin van Persie.

At first, Arsene Wenger looked like a genius. Gunner legends like Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry were all shipped out on or around their 30th birthdays, after they had reached their peak, and while Wenger could still extract some value from their transfer fees.

But more recently, Wenger's Midas touch on transfers has looked a little less golden. Admittedly, Cesc Fabregas was desperate to leave for the sunnier climes of boyhood club Barcelona, while Samir Nasri fell out violently with the Arsenal fans once it became apparent that the interest between the Frenchman and Manchester City's millions was mutual.

But the two Arsenal midfielders were just approaching the peak of their powers - young, talented creative playmakers who will no doubt go on to be superstars elsewhere.

As difficult as it is to stomach for Gunners fans, Nasri has gone on to win his first Premier League title in his first Manchester City season, while the Frenchman's former club remain without a trophy since 2005.

The high-profile exits have made the retention of Robin van Persie even more crucial. The Dutchman, with a year left on his contract, could run down his deal and leave for free, could sign a new deal or the Gunners could cash in now and recoup a transfer fee.

The first option is unlikely, Wenger is not going to let Van Persie rot in the reserves, and in his absence Arsenal are likely to struggle. In such circumstances it's difficult to believe that the Gunners boss would leave the Premier League top scorer on the bench.

Juventus have already tested Arsenal's resolve with a low-ball £8million offer. The Italian club's bid reflects Arsenal vulnerability. Juve can offer such a low fee because, if Van Persie wants to go, Arsenal will have to sell, and the Gunners would surely rather he swapped north London for northern Italy, rather than Manchester City. It only makes sense to go in with the lowest possible offer.

That doesn't mean Arsenal have to accept, and a fee around the £20-£25million mark is probably closer to the figure in Wenger's head.

But, if Wenger is serious about mounting a renewed assault on the Premier League, let alone the Champions League, keeping van Persie has to be non-negotiable.

The Dutchman accounted for 41 percent of Arsenal's Premier League goals last season, and Wenger has insisted he's desperate to hold on to his star asset this time around.

Writing in his Eurosport blog, Wenger said: "We want to keep Robin van Persie at all costs, because we depend on him offensively."

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood also confirmed the club isn't in the least bit interested in selling the Dutch forward, but as long as that three-year £130,000-a-week contract sits unsigned, Arsenal fans will wait nervously.

The signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud are good markers, and represent the first time since Wenger shelled out £15million for Andrei Arshavin in 2008 that the Gunners have landed high-profile established international players.

But the level of their success in north London will ultimately depend upon the future of Van Persie. If he stays, Arsenal have an impressive looking attacking threat, and genuine options from the bench.

If he goes, and Giroud and Podolski are signed to replace his goals rather than supplement them, Arsenal won't just end the season empty handed, they would actually risk going backwards and finishing outside the top four.

Champions League qualification was no sure thing last season, and only Tottenham's late stumble opened the door for Wenger's side. And this season the competition looks stronger.

Chelsea, who finished sixth last year, have signed Eden Hazard. United have improved with the signing of Shinji Kagawa, and City retain the capacity to sign whoever they want this summer.

Liverpool, with a new manager, can't fail to improve on last year's dismal league performance.

Between 1997 and 2005, Wenger guided Arsenal to a top two finish in every single season. Since then, Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour have arrived, and Arsenal haven't finished in the top two since - even with a 30-goal Robin van Persie.

Wenger has done a fantastic job ensuring the Gunners qualify for the Champions League every season. But last year he only managed it by the skin of his teeth.

Keeping Van Persie gives him the best possible chance of maintaining his 15-year Champions League qualification record. Without him, Arsenal risk slipping back even further. And once you slip out, it's almost impossible to get back in straight away.

Arsenal might need to break the bank, and their strict financial wage structure, to keep Van Persie. But selling him and then missing out on the top four would be much worse.

It's time to do whatever it takes to keep Van Persie in north London.

Topics:
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
Football
Premier League