Van Persie Admires True Football Fan Wenger

DUBAI — A team that plays such attractive football has been bored by similar questions from veteran scribes.

By Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 7 Feb 2010, 11:53 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:05 AM

Every time a Gunner is in town, everyone seems to come with the same questions: Can the young Arsenal team challenge the heavyweights? Will the young legs last till the final whistle of the season?

These were the questions that greeted a Gunner once again on Saturday. Perhaps Robin van Persie knew what was coming when he faced the media at the Sevens. The Dutch striker was reading their mind, treating them as if they were some hapless defenders.

But little did he know that a young student of the Arsenal Soccer School would come up with the trickiest of tackles.

Do you miss playing with Adebayor? Van Persie was asked by one of the kids! A cheeky question really it was which reminded the Dutch striker about the biggest Premier League controversy in 2009. “Yeah, I do. He was a great player for us. But he made a ‘little’ mistake,” Van Persie laughed.

It seemed the cynical challenge on him by his former teammate — Emmanuel Adebayor — during the clash between Arsenal and Manchester City was now a thing of the past.

But what hasn’t stopped bothering him is his ankle injury that he suffered in November.

“Only two days ago, I have started jogging. I am right on schedule. It almost 10 weeks since I had the operation. The first six weeks I did swimming and walking. But the moment you go from walking to jogging, it’s like a new world for you,” Van Persie, who came to Dubai to share his football experiences with the students of Arsenal Soccer School, said.

The Gunner is taking his steps to recovery very carefully. “The medical staff is taking it step by step,” says the 26-year-old striker.

“It’s a big injury. Maybe, in April, I will be back on the field for Arsenal. My first aim is not the World Cup. I want to play for Arsenal before the season ends.”

The injury, it seems, has given him more pain mentally. After all, it has kept a player, who scored seven goals in 11 Premier League matches till November 14, out of the game for more than three months.

“Everything was going really well. I was playing in a new position. After my first goal against Man City, I started playing better. I was aiming to play 38 games. I wanted to play well, score goals and make assists. I wanted to go to the World Cup with all these matches and goals in my pocket.

“Then I got injured and things became different. But a footballer needs to adapt to the new situation. I had similar experiences before. But this is my new situation now.

“I hate it, but I can’t do anything about it. The only thing I can do is to work really hard to come back as quickly as I can.”

Van Persie, who has an uncanny knack of scoring against the top teams, failed to hide his disappointment when a scribe asked him about Arsenal’s next match. “We played Villa and Man United. Now we have games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Porto (Champions League clash). I would have preferred to stay in England and play all these nice games. I just need to get back my fitness quickly.

“That’s why you become a footballer. That’s why you work so hard. When you are a kid, this is what you dream of. You want to play all these big games.”

Arsenal may have lost to United 3-1 at home, but Van Persie believes his teammates are still capable of challenging the Blues. “Of course, playing Chelsea away is always hard. In the past five years, we have won only once at Stamford Bridge. That was last year. We just need to have a good day. I am confident.

“Yeah, we lost to Man U 3-1. But if you look at the first 20 minutes of the match, we had chances. If we had taken those, we could have that game. I am confident. If we can score first tomorrow, there is a massive chance.”

The former Feyenoord player feels his manager at Arsenal is doing a great job. “Arsene Wenger is a true football fan from his heart. It’s not just about youth. He likes us to play proper football. He picks players from England, France. He takes players from everywhere. He thinks that these players are capable of playing the football he likes them to play. If you talk about the start of the season, yeah everyone had their doubts. But he really believed in us. And the team has really done well so far. I am positive about the future.”

playing one-twos with kt sports

Q. The Netherlands, despite playing some remarkable football in the Euro 2008, lost to Russia in the very first knock-out match? Do you have to do something different in the World Cup?

It was massive surprise as we lost to Russia. We played really well in the tournament. There was a really good vibe in the team. Everyone worked for each other. After the first 20 minutes, we had good chances. But after that Russia became better. It’s really hard to say what we would be doing differently in the World Cup. Our intentions are the same.

Q. Would you prefer to play as the main striker in the World Cup?

I would love to play as the lead striker in the team. It depends upon what kind of support I get. The manager needs to build a team to support a system. He needs to get the striker to work with the midfield players. If that means I am playing as the striker, it’s perfect. But if it means that I am playing behind the striker, it’s good as well. In the friendly matches, we have to try this out. At the end of the day, it’s the manager’s choice. He has to find out what the best solution is.

Do you dream of becoming Arsenal captain one day?

I don’t know. This year I am the vice-captain. It’s a great honour for me. But Cesc (Fabregas) is doing a great job right now. Maybe in future, I will get a chance to lead the team. That will be a great honour.

How does it feel when people compare you with Dennis Bergkamp?

Dennis was an unbelievable player. I don’t think you can say that someone plays like him. Everyone has their own style. But of course, it’s a big complement when people say that I have something of him. He was a special player.

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