When the news of Robin van Persie’s injury broke, it was to no great surprise to hear Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner proclaiming himself ready and confident to step in against Barcelona (however, the Dutchman has made the squad). I think by now we’ve all become used to the Dane’s self-indulgent ways, but if there was ever a time to walk the walk, it’s now. Arsene Wenger’s men travel to the Catalan giants battered and bruised, but could it be Bendtner’s time to shine?
I’ve criticised the 23-year-old in the past. But like many, if I was really to analyse why I find the striker so irritating, it’s not because he is wasteful on the pitch or a cheat or anything like that, it’s because he continues to believe he really is the best striker in the world. If it was Cristiano Ronaldo who continued to fill our newspapers eulogising about how good he is, then fair enough. But I’m afraid only a handful of Premier League starts and a hat-trick against Leyton Orient doesn’t really justify such a tag. What would convince us all of his ability is to upstage the real crème of the crop: Lionel Messi, David Villa and co on the biggest stage of them all.
Bendtner does have all the attributes of a quality striker. He’s a real handful, is good in the air and links up with the rest of Arsenal’s attacking flair well-enough. He is going to have to be patient on Tuesday night, but against a make-shift defensive partnership, there is no reason why Bendtner can’t finally come of age in the Nou Camp, if he plays. Van Persie has travelled, but I doubt whether he has 90 minutes in his locker straight after an injury which was supposed to rule him out for the best part of a month. Bendtner has overtaken Marouane Chamakh in the pecking order so you’d imagine he will at some stage get his wish to be playing on the stage he sees fit for his talents.
If Bendtner can prove himself against Barcelona, he may go some way to finally making us all see what he is all about, or what he pretends to be at least. It will be interesting to see if Wenger has as much faith in the Dane as he has in himself, or whether the Frenchman will opt for a half-fit Van Persie to lead the line. Whatever the case, at some point or other, Bendtner will have his turn. The game represents a chance for him to give Arsenal another option for the rest of the season. As good as Van Persie is, at times he looks as though he’s made of glass, so there has to be a plan B.
He may not be too happy with being the back-up plan, but it’s certainly better than getting the odd run-out against League One opposition. According to the striker himself, Bendtner is good enough. Starting with Barcelona away, he now has between now and May to prove it.
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