Nicklas Bendtner has always split opinions. If you want a footballer to keep his head down, be humble about his achievements and always put the team first, stick the Dane at the bottom of your list. However, those who follow me on twitter will know I’m a big fan of Nicklas despite his arrogant nature and horrific dressing sense (Google it, seriously!); I think Wenger’s decision to keep the striker at the club this season could be a pivotal one.
You know when you’re in a hurry to go out and the weather is a bit chilly so you just grab any old jumper, despite the odd hole and coffee stain being glaringly obvious to anyone who sees you in it? That is exactly what keeping Nicklas Bendtner this season initially felt like for most people. Just like that jumper, he hadn’t been used with any regularity for a few years, he was a last resort and quite frankly, people are going to laugh at the sight of it. In spite of this and the fact Nicklas Bendtner did his best to ensure mocking with his new samurai style appearance, I was happy when we kept him because despite popular consensus, he is not rubbish. He may have been rubbish in the past but who hasn’t?
For many, Nicklas’ career was over at Arsenal after THAT miss against Barcelona that prevented us pulling off what would’ve been a famous victory across the two legs. I personally think that tie was over the minute we had a striker sent off for taking a shot but that’s irrelevant. The fact remains that one miss shouldn’t control public opinion and despite his occasional lethargic play and interesting media comments, people should remember how effective he has been in the past. The hat-trick against Porto, the late goals against Wolves and Hull, the goal against Ipswich. Remember that phase when Nik was renamed ‘Big Game Bendtner’ due to his match winning performances? Those were simpler days. Sure Bendtner has perhaps never been consistent enough to be our number one striker and perhaps that Barca miss did burn too many bridges but people shouldn’t think he can’t contribute anything to Arsenal this season
For me, the home game against Hull typified how useful he could be in the long run this season. For all of Giroud’s abilities and his impressive performances this season, we cannot rely on him the whole season if we want to mount a serious title challenge so from a rotation point of view, Bendtner could prove vital. Giroud even mentioned how tired he was after that completely ‘meh’ display against Napoli in the week so anyone who tries to claim Bendtner won’t be needed this year is looking through tinted glasses. Is that the phrase? You get what I mean.
Not only is the idea of Giroud needing a rest every now and then important, but also assuring the fact that Bendtner, despite popular belief, is a decent footballer and in particular his aerial ability is vastly superior to Oli’s. Bendtner won’t bust a gut during a game like Giroud does and will most likely miss a howler here and there but stick a decent cross on his head and nine times out of ten he will score. Sadly with Olivier, that figure lies closer to the other end of the spectrum. With Jenkinson and Sagna both being capable of producing a peach of a cross (and the occasional laughable excuse of one), I can’t think of many strikers I’d rather have on the end of them than our Dane. It’s not really a key aspect of the football we play but when – and eventually it will happen – we can’t pass, duck and weave our way through teams, it’s a nice alternative to have.
It’s a shame that Denmark didn’t qualify for the World Cup because if they had done, Bendtner would have been an even more worthy asset to have this year. Despite his place probably being a dead cert in a potential squad because they like him a lot over there, the incentive of keeping in form and in shape could have produced even better performances from Bendtner in the long run and perhaps limited the chances of him smashing up gym doors or whatever he did.
Despite that, having a Bendtner keen on a move away could still work in our favour. Indifferent loan spells with Juve and Sunderland have shielded him from the public eye he wants so desperately to be a part of and he knows his footballing reputation is a little tarnished, well even more so than it probably already was for most. Even he would admit his career has faltered in the last few years and he needs to remind the world what he can do. What a better way to do so than to score key goals as we try to go for the title. I don’t think he’ll see much starting action for the rest of the season but there’s no reason he can’t impress from the bench and get a move to a decent club next year which sadly for me seems to be what he wants.
The one thing I am afraid of is us getting rid of Bendtner in January because it will represent the club treating him harshly and it isn’t for the first time. Bendtner has never done his best to respect the club and perhaps he does have a tendency of letting controversial words slip but I don’t think Arsene and the club have done a great job either. I rarely criticize Arsene and I wouldn’t want him out even if we dropped down three divisions and re-signed Andre Santos; but I never understood his decision to stick Bendtner out on the wing. Admittedly Bendtner was trying to break through at a time where we were gifted with a talented crop of strikers like Eduardo, Adebayor and Van Persie but putting him out on the sidelines wasn’t the answer. It worked wonders for Ramsey but for Bendtner it left him too isolated and never where he should be, especially when a golden cross went across the box and he was standing on the other wing doing nothing. The ironic thing was he could actually put in a decent ball, and a cross that would be ideal for him went to someone else. I think the club needs to give him more of a chance this time around rather than shifting him out in January and most likely bringing in another very similar striker on loan, which is the best we can probably hope for in January. Give Bendtner chances, as a striker, and I don’t think he’ll let us down too often. Unless we play Burnley, he doesn’t do too well against them.
All I’d like to say is don’t laugh at Bendtner too much. Laugh at his hair, his beard and the fact he likes to vent his anger on entrances to social areas but don’t laugh at him as a footballer. He’ll never be Van Persie or Henry and despite his opinion, he’ll never play for Barcelona. However, on his day, he can dominate defenders and trust me, if we are playing at home to Wolves and need a late goal to continue with the title surge, big game Bendtner will show up.