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Van Persie puts contract talks with Arsenal on hold

LONDON (Reuters) -- Arsenal captain Robin van Persie has put talks over a new contract on hold until the end of the season so he can concentrate on playing and not personal matters, the Dutch international striker said.

Van Persie, the top scorer in the Premier League this season with 22 goals, has been linked with a move away from Arsenal after eight years. His current deal expires next year.

In his column in the matchday programme ahead of Sunday's North London derby with Tottenham Hotspur, Van Persie said discussions over a new contract will not start before the end of the season as he only wants to focus on playing.

"There have been a lot of stories, generally contradictory ones, about my contract situation recently so I'd like to make it clear," he wrote.

"There's nothing complicated or sinister - the club and I have both agreed to speak at the end of the season and see how things stand. The boss (Arsene Wenger), (chief executive) Ivan Gazidis and I are all comfortable with it.

"I need all my focus to be on football - on captaining this team, improving every day, doing extra work on the training pitch and preparing for the very busy schedule of fixtures we have.

"If I look down the list, there's not much time to sit down and think about anything else!

"For me, this is a time to play football and not speak about personal things. All of my energy needs to go on getting this team where we want it to be this season."

Arsenal have endured an erratic season, but Van Persie has been the one constant success, with 28 goals in all competitions before Sunday's match.

After facing Spurs, Arsenal are at Liverpool next Saturday before AC Milan visit the Emirates in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, when the Londoners will attempt the near impossible task of overturning their 4-0 deficit from the first leg.

Having been knocked out of the FA Cup and League Cup, out of contention for the league title and unlikely to progress in the Champions League, Arsenal are heading for a seventh straight season without a trophy.

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