Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie doubles up as Player of the Year by winning writers' award
Arsenal captain thanks Wenger after scoring 34 goals from new central striking role this season
Wednesday 25 April 2012
It was one double that few at Arsenal saw coming, when Robin van Persie arrived in London as a raw talent in May 2004. The Dutchman, who yesterday added the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award to the Professional Footballers' Association version he was voted on Sunday, has taken his game to a level that perhaps not even he could have envisaged.
Now at the peak of his powers, the 28-year-old Netherlands forward has become the near-perfect front man, having scored 34 goals in an injury-free season in which he has almost single-handedly dragged the Gunners back up into the Premier League's top four.
While Van Persie fully deserves all these plaudits from both fans and football journalists alike,his success is yet another example of the vision of the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, in moulding such huge potential into one of the club's crown jewels.
After joining Excelsior's youth squad at 14, Van Persie moved on to Feyenoord, where he broke into the first team at 17 and was named the Dutch Football Association's Best Young Talent at the end of the 2001-02 season.
However, his relationship with the then Feyenoord manager, Bert van Marwijk, deteriorated and he was eventually sold to Arsenal in a cut-price £3m deal, with the Gunners hoping they had found their long-term replacement for Dennis Bergkamp.
It took him some time to fully step out of his countryman's shadow, but once again Wenger's faith proved justified in the man appointed club captain following the sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona last summer.
"I never really thought that I would end up as a main striker," said Van Persie, who was an integral part of Van Marwijk's national squad which reached the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.
"I actually never played there before – I did it a couple of times at youth level, but it was nothing really special. The boss didn't buy someone else [when Emmanuel Adebayor left] because he was convinced I could do it. I wasn't so sure. Then, in pre-season, we had a game against Inter Milan. I scored a good goal, played well and he told me after the game, 'You see? It will work'."
Van Persie added: "Sometimes, you just question yourself, if you are good enough at it. Those answers came. I have been for a while now convinced I actually can play as a main striker.
"Let's see where it ends. Let's see how far I can push myself, see where my maximum lies." Arsenal supporters will be praying that it comes at the Emirates, as Van Persie is yet to agree a contract extension past the end of next season.
Wenger sings the praises of his captain, who has equalled the club record for calendar goals in the Premier League of Thierry Henry and could add the 2011-12 Golden Boot. "The way it goes beyond my level of expectation is the number of goals he has scored. Where he is sensational as well is as a captain. He has done extremely well on and off the field," the manager said.
"Robin has a very healthy life, very focused on football – he takes care of everything. He is like Thierry Henry in that. When you look at great players, they are on the move, everybody else stands and watches the ball. That is the difference. It's not the way you finish, it is the way you move that gets you into the position. Robin is world class."
Doubly so, Arsenal's fans can say now.
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