Robin van Persie reveals the moment he realised Arsenal hero Patrick Vieira was a ‘true leader’

Arsenal's Robin van Persie and Patrick Vieira
Van Persie was bought as Dennis Bergkamp’s long-term replacement (Picture: Getty Images)

Robin van Persie has revealed he learnt a valuable lesson in leadership when Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira offered to run himself into the ground to help take the pressure off his new teammate.

The Dutch forward moved from Feyenoord to the Gunners in May 2004, just days after Arsene Wenger’s side became the first team in Premier League history to go a whole campaign without losing a single game.

Arsenal carried their unbeaten run into the following season, putting additional strain on a young Van Persie to deliver instantly.

With the nerves beginning to settle in before his first league start against Portsmouth in December 2004, club captain Vieira helped put the striker’s mind at ease.

‘It was a very difficult, mature group to come into but at the same time it was a new world to me,’ Van Persie told DAZN.

‘These guys made their mark as footballers, financially they were wealthy, they had won trophies.

‘These guys could be arrogant if they wanted to but they were the opposite.

‘Vieira was a gentleman, a natural leader.

‘My first start away at Portsmouth, I was so nervous. Vieira comes to me and says, “Robin, how are you? Listen Robin, play like you train, you are showing all of us you are a great footballer. It is your time to take over from Dennis [Bergkamp]. I am behind you, I will run for you, I will give you the ball”.

‘I was like, “Wow, I just lost ten kilos [of pressure]”. That’s the sign of a true leader.’

Arsene Wenger Retrospective
Vieira was a key part of the Invincibles team (Picture: Getty Images)

Despite coming close on multiple occasions, Van Persie never won a league title during his eight-year spell at Arsenal, but still has overwhelmingly positive memories of his time in north London.

He added: ‘When I look at Arsenal i actually have a good feeling about that period because it was a crucial period for me.

‘Arsene [Wenger] was crucial, the players I played with were crucial. Ok we didn’t win a lot of trophies.

‘Yes I think so we should but with the whole new stadium coming in financially Arsenal wasn’t at the top.

‘So there were a lot of reasons we didn’t compete most of those years but I’m still proud of my time there.

‘Arsenal is a fantastic club, I played two years at Highbury which I loved.

‘I played with top players and in my development over those years I took huge steps. I started as a kid and playing as Arsenal, playing with other great players really helped me over the years.’

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