RONNNIE Stam is hoping to put the boot into his best pal’s hopes of lifting the Premier League title.
Stam comes face to face tonight with Robin van Persie when Arsenal visit the DW.
The pair go back a long way, having come through the ranks together at Dutch Eredivisie outfit Feyenoord.
Stam even sought the advice of Van Persie before deciding to join Wigan from FC Twente last summer.
But the Wigan man insists the friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes with both teams going all-out for the three points.
“Robin is a good friend of mine, and it’s always nice to play against a good friend,” Stam told the Evening Post.
“We were together in the youth team at Feyenoord, from the age of 12, and since then we have been very close.
“I’ll speak with him before and after the game, but during the game he’s just another opponent.
“Arsenal are a very good team, though, and we’ll have to watch out for other players and not just Robin.”
Van Persie is now an established name here in England after joining the Gunners in 2004.
And after being dogged by injury problems for the past couple of years, Arsene Wenger is hoping the 27-year-old can spearhead a concerted title challenge - something Stam would concur with.
He had a couple of bad injuries last year, which was really disappointing for him because he couldn’t show his talent.
“But everyone in England has seen his talent since he has been here - a great left foot and special skills that you are born with,” Stam added.
“If he stays fit, then I think he can give Arsenal the title.
“After only one year at Feyenoord, everyone could see how good he was and everyone said he was headed right for the top. And he has got there.”
Of far more pressing concern for Stam, though, is helping Latics build on the Boxing Day victory over Wolves and push on towards the safety of mid-table.
And the versatile Dutchman feels the three points are there for the taking if Wigan hit their straps.
He explained: “Everyone wants to test themselves against top teams like Arsenal, who are full of so many top players.
“We played them a few weeks ago in the Carling Cup, and didn’t do too bad, but this game will be far more important.
“I have heard about what happened here last season against Arsenal, and it sounded absolutely unbelievable.