Nicklas Bendtner is a man in stasis. His contract with Arsenal runs out at the end of this season; a season in which he has found his opportunities limited behind the largely underwhelming Olivier Giroud and recently found his role as deputy usurped by a striker who has yet to score.
With limited opportunities left to impress potential suitors, Bendtner used Denmark’s recent friendly with England in order to appeal to Europe’s elite clubs through the world’s media. The problem for Nicklas Bendtner is that he’s still Nicklas Bendtner.
The Dane attempted to use the bully pulpit in order to discredit his reputation for arrogance. In revision of his early season statements in which he revealed he saw the next step in his career as being to Real Madrid or Barcelona, Bendtner humbled as he revealed his willingness to play for a team who were only challenging for Champions League qualification. The reason for this lowering of expectations: he just hasn’t played enough games. It had nothing to do with a lack of quality.
While such confidence may be admirable in a young striker, it just seems delusional coming from a man of 26. This was Bendtner trying to diminish his reputation for hubris and yet could only have succeeded in making himself less appealing to suiting clubs. He continually stated how his failures in club football to date had not dented his confidence at all, but at this stage you’d really hope it had.
Confidence has always been a virtue for a centre-forward. Misses are an inevitable part of the game and even the technically best striker would be rendered useless without this essential trait. As the attention on players is only ever increasing with the expansion of online media, there is an argument to be made that confidence matters more now than it ever has.
However, over-confidence is still a vice. In parallel to the ability of increasing attention to destroy a player’s belief, it can also inflate it to dangerous levels. Hype can arm a forward with the ability to recover quickly from a miss, but it can also give him the nonchalance to not care at all.
Apathy is on the rise in football. Not in the stands, where football fans are spending more time than ever reading and debating the game. But for those that play football, it is no longer a given that they actually care about it.
A recent breed of footballers has emerged who do not play football because they like but because they are good at it. Benoît Assou-Ekotto is one player who has been very open about this fact, claiming that he views football as a job like any other, the only difference being it happens to be very well paid.
Nicklas Bendtner has also been accused of falling into this camp. And the Arsenal forward has been at pains to distance himself from it. He claims to be desperate for a break and insists that he doesn’t care about anything else but football. The problem for the Dane is that he needed this attitude at 18, not 26.
It is of course not a sin to be concerned about other things than football. And your average 18-year-old male will very likely care about many other things. The problem for Bendtner is that he still believes he is the player that he was hyped to become at this age. Eight years and 43 club goals later, the striker would be better served accepting his lesser abilities and just concentrate on trying to use them.
But then, Bendtner just wouldn’t be Bendtner.