Does Nicklas Bendtner deserve so much criticism?

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Indulge me for a second. Just take a minute and have a think. If you could play for any club team in the world, who would you play for? Pick three teams.


Now, apart from the club you support, I would be willing to bet quite a large bit of money that at least 90% of people would have said Barcelona or Real Madrid. So, why the fury when Nicklas Bendtner says that, in an ideal world, the next club he would play for would be one of the Spanish giants.

There is a perception that Bendtner is an arrogant, talentless idiot, a lumbering buffoon with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It’s these ideas that I believe are at best misguided, and arguably plain wrong.

In his Arsenal career, where more than half of his appearances have come as a substitute, he managed to score a somewhat impressive 45 goals for the club. Despite spending a large chunk of his Arsenal career playing from the right-wing, he has often played a huge part in changing games for the Gunners. Of all the players in the current Arsenal squad, he is the one who has scored the most winning goals, including a memorable winner against Tottenham with his first touch in 2007.

In 21 years of Champions League football, Bendtner is in an elite group of 15 players to have scored a hat-trick in a knockout round. In that very same group, only Lionel Messi has scored more than one hat-trick in a knockout round. Internationally, Bendtner has an enviable record of 24 goals in 57 appearances for Denmark. His ratio is remarkable, and he is a leader in the squad.

Which all goes to say that, far from being talentless, he clearly is very talented. The truth is he is in between the two extremes that are presented when discussing him; he is not as bad as people make out but he is not as good as he proclaims to be.

But this also leads me on to my next point; he doesn’t genuinely believe he’s as good as people like to make out he does. What is reported as typical Bendtner arrogance is often just Bendtner verbalizing a target (often to Danish press). Hence, upon translation, Bendtner saying “I want to be one of the world’s greatest strikers” becomes “I’ll be one of the world’s greatest strikers.” Subtle changes make the world of difference.

The recent game that brought about the most ire from fans regarding his performances came in the Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea. I hold my hands up, he was bad. Yet, there are contributing factors, if not excuses. He hasn’t had a pre-season with the first team, and has only been training with them since his deadline day transfer collapsed due to Arsenal not bringing in a striker.

A lot has changed in the two years he was on loan at Sunderland and Juventus, and there are bound to be wavelength issues. Allied to the fact that, he had mentally checked out of Arsenal and prepared himself for a move that didn’t materialise, a slow return is always likely.

I’m not saying Arsenal should keep Bendtner because he’s going to score 30 goals a season guaranteed; at this point in his career and Arsenal’s return as a big player in the transfer world, it’s probably best for all parties to move on. But Bendtner is better than people give him credit for, and some people could very well be eating their words sooner than later.

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