Only long-term injury can build a player up to be something he’s not. Cheers broke out as Nicklas Bendtner took to the pitch against Aston Villa in January 2010, the return of a natural striker and the final dismissal of Andrey Arshavin as the team’s centre-forward.
The cheers and applause weren’t quite as vociferous as they were following the Dane’s winning leap to head Arsenal ahead in the North London Derby in 2007 – probably the player’s finest moment in an Arsenal shirt – but the fans were giving him a platform and, by default via injury to others, so too was the manager.
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Can anyone really claim that any of Arsene Wenger’s signings have been treated poorly while they’ve been at the club? Many have advocated the line that Wenger had ruined Arshavin by playing him on the wing, while doing much the same for Bendtner by offering him the same treatment. It should say a lot about the Danish striker that his best moment for Arsenal came against Tottenham. After that, it’s a little difficult to string together a decent highlight reel of his efforts. There was that one strike against Blackburn in October 2009, but Arsenal were already 5-2 up before Bendtner rifled in the sixth.
The frustrating and lazy side of the player has been highlighted on many occasions. Despite it being over two years since Bendtner wore an Arsenal shirt in a competitive game, you can still quite easily envisage him lightly jogging, gum in mouth, to close down an opposition defender, of whom he really had no real intention of putting under any great threat. That’s where Wenger does come into this. The Frenchman will rarely, if ever, shout onto the pitch from the touchline. Coincidently, one instance did see the manager abandon his calm exterior when Bendtner himself surrendered possession with a childish back heel while Arsenal were holding onto a lead with only a few minutes remaining.
Bendtner could have been another one of Wenger’s success stories. Ok, he was unlikely to ever become a player in the class of Thierry Henry or Cesc Fabregas, of even Robin van Persie. But it was all there to set up another one of Wenger’s ‘masterstrokes’ in the market, having picked up the Dane as a teenager for £220,000. He earned his stripes in English football with the loan spell at Birmingham, helping the club to win promotion to the Premier League. Though Bendtner didn’t look to be typical Wenger signing – he possesses none of the technical qualities of the three aforementioned former captains – he was a youngster with potential; a necessary balance to help add a rougher edge to Arsenal’s attractive play.
The player, however, never wanted it. Like so many others in recent years, Arsenal is probably the best he’s going to get in his career. Ok, he’s spent a loan spell at Juventus, but absolutely nothing came of it. At Arsenal, Bendtner was given opportunities to play, even if they were on the right side of the attack. The frustration is understandable, but hard work would have been rewarded. He could have been a hero at Arsenal regardless of the poor showings of the past had he taken his opportunity in the Camp Nou and sent Arsenal through in the Champions League. His lack of intelligence, however, came to the fore, bringing the ball closer to Javier Mascherano rather than keeping the Argentine at a distance and getting his shot off.
Bendtner isn’t a lost cause, though. He’s often performed well for his country which forced the question as to whether there is a future for him at Arsenal. At 25, that ship has sailed. We’ve seen nothing in the way of consistency to say that this is a player who is good enough to lead the line for a club of Arsenal’s stature. Until now he wouldn’t accept that. There was confidence often spilling over into arrogance, as if Arsenal should feel privileged to have him in the squad.
The Dane will take a step down in football, below his lofty expectations. Napoli won’t come calling, neither will Atletico Madrid. A Champions League club, for now, may be out of reach. The flipside of the argument of his age is that there is still plenty of time to properly blossom into a leading forward for a top club. Borussia Monchengladbach have been touted: a good club that will offer the seemingly nomadic striker a home. For once, Bendtner should feel privileged that his career at the top of European football isn’t over well before it’s truly begun.
Was Nicklas Bendtner treated badly at Arsenal or is his career the effects of a poor attitude?
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