Robin van Persie reveals the key piece of advice he received from Sol Campbell at Arsenal

Sol Campbell and Robin van Persie ahead of Arsenal's Premiership clash with Manchester City
Sol Campbell helped transform Robin van Persie into a prolific goalscorer at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Robin van Persie has lifted the lid on a crucial piece of advice he received from Sol Campbell at the start of his time at Arsenal and revealed how some intense self-reflection during those early days stood him in good stead for the rest of his career.

The iconic 36-year-old, regarded as one of the finest forwards of his generation, finally hung up his boots last summer after 18 years at the top, playing for the Gunners, Manchester United, Feyenoord, Fenerbahce and the Dutch national team.

Arsene Wenger signed Van Persie the summer after Arsenal’s magnificent ‘Invincibles’ season and, considering their unprecedented success prior to his arrival, the Netherlands striker would no doubt have hoped to end up with more silverware at the club.

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Robin van Persie of Manchester United
Van Persie won the Premier League with Manchester United in 2012/13 (Picture: Getty)

However, it was not until he completed a controversial move to United that he managed to get his hands on the Premier League trophy, scoring 26 goals across the 2012/13 campaign to help Sir Alex Ferguson’s secure the title.

But Van Persie recognises the importance of his education at Arsenal where he had to dig deep to ensure he fulfilled his potential in a fiercely competitive squad which boasted the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires.

‘Over the years I kept asking questions and I even wrote stuff down to myself,’ Van Persie explained on Jake Humphrey’s The High Performance podcast.

‘So at one point at Arsenal after two years I wasn’t satisfied, I wasn’t happy, it was going okay but not good enough. So I started to write a letter to myself: what are my positives and what are my negatives. And then I noticed I was lying to myself. I was making myself feel better.

‘The main thing I think for everyone who is listening is keep asking yourself even stupid questions and write letters to yourself on how it’s going.

‘That letter I wrote myself was more about me as a player. What I liked about myself and what I could improve.’

Van Persie says he would ‘constantly’ listen to players who were ‘better’ than him in his early career and revealed how Arsenal defender Campbell played a crucial role in his transformation into a prolific goalscorer.

Asked what was in the ‘improve’ column of the letter he wrote to himself, Van Persie replied: ‘Goals. I should score more goals, I should make more runs in behind.

‘By talking to Campbell, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergamp, Robert Pires and all these guys.

‘Sol told me once, he said, “Robin, the way you play it’s a dream for a defender like me” and I said: “Why, tell me why!”. He said: “Because you want every ball in your feet. You have to force me to make a choice to close you down or to follow you. You have to make runs in behind”.

‘Then I came up with the rule: okay, out of three actions at least one of them has to be in behind because I have to hurt defenders because Sol Campbell told me he doesn’t like it.

‘So I was constantly asking myself questions and listening to players who were better than me.’

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