Over the course of his 18-odd years in north London Arsene Wenger is understandably guilty of a lot of things in the eyes of the Arsenal faithful.
A lack of spending over the past few years, an extreme cautiousness when it comes to fighting with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the transfer market and persisting with an often inexplicable policy of fielding young foreign talents are all apparent shortcomings which can be attributed to him.
What can’t be called into doubt however, is his unerring patience. I’m not just talking about patience in the face of an extremely tight-budget following a self-funded stadium move to the Emirates, nor about a patience with the fans despite the numerous times the bulk of them have called for his head.
I’m describing the sort of patience which ensures that a manager resolves to keep faith with an under performing player who simply falls well short of the ability his potential once promised, and doesn’t show any real drive or determination when it comes to improving.
In short, the sort of patience Wenger exhibited over almost the entirety of Nicklas Bendtner’s Arsenal career.
The Denmark international finally departed for pastures new at the end of last season, signing on for Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg having seen his contract with the Gunners expire. Never one to mince his words the misfiring forward, who has failed to hit the ground running in Germany, recently told Bild that he was annoyed at how Wenger had “wasted” his time last season, having called him back from a loan spell with Juventus the summer previous.
In Bendtner’s opinion the decision on Wenger’s part took him away from Turin, where he was prosperously enjoying his future and finally starting to find his feet at the highest level. Of course the reality of the situation was far removed from that narrative, and the 26-year-old had only managed to make nine Serie A appearances either side of an injury which admittedly limited his opportunities. His time in Italy though yielded a return which totalled no goals at all.
For that reason, with his track record still weighing like an unwanted chain around his ankles, Arsenal supporters were up in arms when Wenger determined that it was best for all parties that he recalled him from his loan. With Olivier Giroud taking up the mantle as the only recognised striker in the first-team squad, and youngster Yaya Sanogo nowhere near ready to compete for a place in Wenger’s starting XI, the chance was there for Bendtner to finally break into the Arsenal setup.
Though some may make the argument that he was starved of game-time during his final campaign with the club, it can also be said that it was perhaps his worst season in an Arsenal shirt.
12 matches ended with Bendtner amassing a goal tally of two, taking his overall contribution whilst playing for the Gunners to 24 in 106 Premier League games; hardly stats to write home about. What’s more the Dane’s off-field antics did little to help his plea for starting opportunities, culminating in him directly disobeying Wenger’s orders and returning to his native land for a boozed-up night out.
To say that Bendtner’s claims over being frustrated during his last term at Arsenal due to the lack of game-time are disrespectful is an understatement. Whilst the vast majority of people would have been happy to see the striker’s bags packed years ago Wenger repeatedly stuck his neck on the line in a bit to allow him to flourish.
Merely adding fuel to a fire of revolution in the stands which oft burned brightly, the long-serving Gunners boss made all aware that it was his decision to keep Bendtner and give him a fair crack at the whip.
Bendtner may now be free from the nightmare that his Arsenal career had become, but to take a dig at his former club, and in turn the man who gave him his big break, is only going to diminish his already startlingly low reputation further.