Van Persie taking 'risks' to beat Shearer goal tally
"The biggest frustration was that he had started to compete as one of the best players in the world and suddenly he was out. I am convinced you would have talked about Robin Van Persie alongside Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney. I am sure."
When those words were uttered by Arsene Wenger way back in April 2010, the general response was one of raised eyebrows and dismissive shakes of the head. It is Wenger, after all, who once memorably remarked to Alex Ferguson that "everyone thinks that they have the prettiest wife at home" in reference to the one-eyed world view of most football managers.
Yet even in private conversation, Wenger was adamant about Van Persie. He genuinely believed that the good player who everyone had seen in fits and starts could develop into one of the greats with a consistent run of games.
Among many other things during a turbulent 12 months at Arsenal, 2011 will go down as the year when Wenger was proved right about Van Persie.
His performances have made him not only the outstanding individual player in England, but comparable to the best in the world. He is behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (but ahead of Lionel Messi) in goalscoring termsf or 2011.
Wednesday's 2-1 win over Aston Villa included Van Persie's 34th Premier League goal to equal Thierry Henry's Arsenal record in a calendar year.
With two inviting home matches to follow against Wolves and QPR before the turn of the year, there is now a very realistic chance of him breaking Alan Shearer's all-time record of 36.
Yet when you consider the injuries that Van Persie has endured over his career, a superstitious preference to look back rather than forward is understandable.
"It is a big honour because Thierry is probably the best player Arsenal ever had," said Van Persie.
"It makes me proud, but I don't want to jinx myself. I know about Shearer's record, but I think you have to look at football from the basics. If you do your basics right and if you play well, especially as a main striker, you will get your goals."
So, how has Van Persie transformed himself into a player who many, including former team-mate Dennis Bergkamp, regarded as a support striker, to just about the most prolific goalscorer in Premier League history? As well as the long spell free from injury, he puts it down to a willingness to take risks.
"I didn't miss one Premier League game," he said. "When you have a good run and you feel fresh and fit, you try things. "You take more risks and, as a striker, I think it is really important to have a go.
"I take more risks now, because I know with the team behind me, I will always get more chances. "I always get one, two, three, sometimes four chances in a game.
"That tells me that I can take a risk here and there."
Arsenal have postponed Monday's home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers for 24 hours because of a strike by London Underground train drivers which threatens to plunge the capital into chaos. (© Daily Telegraph, London)