Wenger hopes to beat Manchester United after honouring them
Arsenal manager shrugs off fan criticism over planned tribute for Van Persie and Co, saying it will have no impact on Champions League bid
Arsene Wenger insists he has no problem asking his Arsenal players to form a guard of honour for Manchester United tomorrow, but the Gunners boss is determined to send the newly-crowned champions home empty -handed as the race for the top four heats up.
With United ending Manchester City's reign as champions on Monday, the focus this weekend turns to the tense battle to qualify for the Champions League.
City are well set in second place, so the pressure is on third-placed Arsenal, who take on United at the Emirates Stadium, fourth placed Chelsea, who face Swansea at home on Sunday, and fifth placed Tottenham, who travel to Wigan on Saturday.
Arsenal are one point ahead of Chelsea and two in front of Tottenham and their hopes of cementing that position may have been aided by United having wrapped up the title already.
Some Arsenal fans are upset with Wenger's decision to mark United's title triumph with a guard of honour before the match, returning the respect shown by Alex Ferguson's men when they did the same soon after George Graham's Gunners team were crowned champions in 1991.
Those supporters, irritated by the presence of former Gunners captain Robin van Persie in the United line-up, plan to turn their backs on the pitch during the guard of honour.
But Wenger is keen not to rile United unnecessarily and he said: "We will respect the players that have played for us a long time as we always have done and treat them well before and after the game.
"As a champion or not as a champion it is exactly the same. What I want is for us to have a good game and to beat them, it doesn't matter what kind of status they come with."
While Arsenal scrap to retain their place among Europe's elite, United's 20th English title allows Ferguson's players to dream of further success in the coming years.
In addition to Van Persie, the likes of Danny Welbeck, David de Gea, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa had also never won the Premier League until Monday.
And United defender Jonny Evans thinks the memories of the celebrations following the win over Aston Villa will fuel a desire for more success.
Asked if United have a bright future, Evans said: "Definitely. The first title just makes you more hungry. You experience that feeling and you don't want anyone else to have it.
"You develop a selfishness and a determination to experience that feeling again and again. It's a great motivation for everyone."
Spurs have the first chance to steal a march in the top four battle as they play 24 hours before their rivals and boss Andre Villas-Boas is confident last weekend's 3-1 win over Manchester City will prove the springboard to a successful run-in.
"It was inspirational," he said. "Hopefully with the motivation we had from that game we can get the result we want this weekend and for the rest of the season."
But Wigan also need the points at the other end of the table. The FA Cup finalists are third bottom and three points from safety after two successive defeats, prompting boss Roberto Martinez to put all contract talks with his players on ice.
Martinez has been unable to agree new deals with Maynor Figueroa, Franco di Santo and Antolin Alcaraz, whose contracts all expire at the end of the season.
"Right now, all the individual decisions are not important," he said. "Everything is surrounding the final five games in the league and making sure we achieve our aim. The club is the priority."
On Sunday, bottom club Reading face second bottom QPR at the Madejski Stadium with the losers knowing they are certain to be relegated.
A draw would also relegate both clubs if fourth bottom Aston Villa draw or win against Sunderland on Monday.