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The Curious Case of Nicklas Bendtner
By TheArsenalBoy (Munich) – I will start off by saying I am a huge fan of Nicklas Bendtner. I see a world class player in him just waiting for a chance to break out of its shell. After the summer sale of Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City, it appears that chance may have come. Nicklas Bendtner was born in Copenhagen and moved to Arsenal in the summer of 2004, looking like his long-haired Viking ancestors. Since his time in the Reserves, where he struck a prolific partnership with Lupoli, to the end of the 2008/2009 season it can be said that Bendtner’s career at Arsenal has had its ups and downs.
After starting out in the Reserves, much was expected of the young Dane. His strike rate was phenomenal as he showed clear potential to develop into a quality player. It took about a year but he finally earned his first team debut with a substitutes appearance at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland in the League Cup on 25 October 2005. After spending the rest of the season shuffling between the Reserves and the first team, Arsene Wenger decided it was time for him to go out on loan to pick up some more experience. Nick joined up with Championship outfit, Birmingham, and throughout the course of his loan the Danish striker made 48 appearances, scoring 13 goals and notching up 9 assists in all competitions, helping Birmingham achieve promotion to the Premier League. After what can only be described as a massively successful loan spell, Nick returned to the Arsenal in the summer of 2007. He started the season off a bit slow, limited mostly to substitutes appearances and starting places in the League Cup, as Adebayor won Henry’s vacated spot up front. But Nick put his head down and worked hard, making appearances in both the Premier League and the Champions League as well as getting some very successful starts next to Eduardo in the FA and Carling Cups. Nick seemed to be having a very successful debut season in the first team and had also developed a good partnership with Eduardo. He had his highs including the quickest goal scored by a substitute ever in the Premier League against Spurs to win the match; and, of course, some lows, most notably the on-pitch scuffle with fellow striker and professional egotist, Emmanuel Adebayor, which left Nick bleeding from the nose on the pitch during the club’s 5-1 loss to Spurs in the second leg of the league cup. All in all, it turned out to be a fairly productive season, with Nick making 40 appearances, 17 as a starter, and grabbing 10 goals and 7 assists.
Another tumultuous summer followed at Arsenal and many had pegged Nick, among others, to step up and help the team achieve glory after several trophy-less season. All the hype and expectations placed on Bendtner seemed to be well founded. He had a successful preseason with Arsenal, scoring and generally looking dangerous in the preseason camp and coming off the blocks quick at the beginning of the campaign. A few solid performances in the League as well as a great opening round to the Carling Cup and it seemed like Nick was well on his way to his best season yet at the club. But like many young players, he hit the wall. After the disastrous display away at Turf Moor, it seemed the Dane could do no right and as such became a target of ridicule from his own fans. Nick would hardly claim that the stick was unfounded as the striker later revealed that he felt he had not played well at times through the season. But, instead of buckling under the pressure, Nick again put his head down and worked hard. He made a number of high impact substitutes appearances, at the KC Stadium in the 3-1 win over Hull City as well as a hero’s performance in the Champions League, grabbing a late winner against Kiev at the Emirates to help ensure Arsenal move on the next round.
The hard work was certainly paying off as Nick seemed to win back those parts of the crowd that had begun to doubt his quality. He seemed to grow in skill and in confidence with each passing game and his phenomenal performance against West Brom, where the big Dane grabbed a first half brace, seemed to signal a complete return to form. The rest of the season dragged on and Arsenal managed to maintain their Champions League place. All in all, it was a very disappointing season, but if there was something to be taken from it, it was that Nicklas Bendtner (along with, perhaps, Alex Song) had become a man. The Danish striker had not had the most straightforward season, but, by the time the final whistle blew on the campaign, he had grown immensely from the player he was in August. On the year, he ended with 15 goals and 4 assists, but, more importantly, showed that he could score vital goals in big games. Fifteen goals is nothing to shake a stick at. He ended only one short of Adebayor (and would have tied him if his game winner at Anfield would not have incorrectly been ruled offsides) and at just 20/21 years of age to grab 15 goals and four assists making mostly substitute appearances for a top four club in England and Europe is amazing.
Nicklas has been biding his time at Arsenal waiting for the day that Adebayor left and I fully expect him to take his chance. Over the past two years he has learned a lot and has developed into a man. A physical player who is also not afraid to run at defenders, Nick possesses everything a world-class striker needs to have. Although one could make an argument about his finishing, this is something that will be honed with experience. He has power, pace, and vision. His link up play is fantastic and his overall attitude is admirable. He is a player who wants to be the best and wants to win but is still humble enough to know that he has much to learn and much to improve on. A hole has been left in the Arsenal attack and Nick has the talent, the drive and the attitude to step up further this season and silence his remaining critics.