By Chris Harris
Robin van Persie is one of the world's finest centre forwards - but he never expected to make his name in that position.
Arsenal's captain was tipped as the natural successor to Dennis Bergkamp when he signed for the Gunners in 2004 and in one sense he is after donning the No 10 shirt at the start of last season. But in playing terms Van Persie has evolved from a Bergkamp-esque deep-lying forward into a out-and-out striker with a predatory instinct inside the box.
An injury-free spell - so elusive in his early years at Arsenal - has helped Van Persie deliver 54 goals in all competitions since the start of 2011. He owes his success to talent, hard work, good advice and a twist of fate that sparked his transformation from chance maker to chance taker.
“I was hoping to play as a second striker... I never thought I would end up as a main striker,” Van Persie told Arsenal Player. "We only tried it [at Arsenal] when Adebayor went to Manchester City [in 2009].
"The boss didn't buy anyone else because he was convinced I could do it, but I wasn't even convinced I could do it. I had not really played there that much, and I hadn't thought about it much before.
"The boss said, 'I think you can do it, give it a go and see where it ends. Play your normal game, don't go out there to score, go out there to enjoy yourself and help the team'.
“I had a go and then in pre-season we had a game against Inter Milan and I scored good goal and played well, and he told me after the game, 'We will see how it goes, I am 100 per cent sure it will work'.
"Then in my first five or six [league] games I didn't score, I was making assists and playing well, but I didn't score and I thought, 'I am a main striker now, I need to score' and the boss said, 'I don't mind that, as long as you play well for the team, giving assists, the goals will come'.
"When I scored my first goal I then scored seven in seven, with seven assists, so that was quite good. That was my first step to being a main striker."
Watch the full interview with Robin on Arsenal Player.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source