How Arsenal's starting XI has changed since Nicklas Bendtner left

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Last week saw Nicklas Bendtner make his return to English football after a two-year absence when he came off the bench for Nottingham Forest in their Championship clash against Rotherham.

The often controversial character has seen his career stall after a stint with Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga yielded just nine goals from 47 appearances.

But Forest have offered him what could prove to be Bendtner's last chance to fulfil the potential he has always felt he's possessed.

The Dane has made two brief cameos for Philippe Montanier's side but could be in line to make his first start on Tuesday night against the side who gave him his big break, Arsenal, in the League Cup.

During his nine-year association with the Gunners, Bendtner usually made the headlines for his comments away from the pitch rather than his achievements on it.

By the end of the 2013-14 season, Arsene Wenger had seen enough and Bendtner's contract was allowed to expire.

While Arsenal fans weren't too disappointed to see the striker depart, the lack of progress and development in the team since he left is certainly cause for concern.

As a result, GiveMeSport have had a look at the last Arsenal side Bendtner featured in (a match against Crystal Palace in February 2014) and compared it to current team who beat Hull 4-1 on Saturday. Here's how it turned out:

GK: Wojciech Szczesny vs Petr Cech

One of the easiest comparisons to make because there is no comparison. Cech has finally filled what used to be one of Arsenal's weakest positions that Szczesny, and so many others before him, failed to make their own.

RB: Bacary Sagna vs Hector Bellerin

While Sagna has significantly improved since moving to the Etihad, he was always prone to the occasional defensive lapse at the Emirates. Bellerin, on the other hand, has become one of the best full-backs in the division.

His pace and final ball make him a threat in the final third and his defensive awareness is improving with every game - hence why Barcelona remain interested in his services.

CB: Laurent Koscielny vs Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny is one of just four survivors from Arsenal's starting XI two years ago and remains Wenger's most reliable defender at the back.

CB: Per Mertesacker vs Shkodran Mustafi

Mertesacker's injury may have forced Wenger to delve into the market for Mustafi this summer but it may prove a blessing in disguise.

The ex-Valencia centre-back has looked reassured in his brief Arsenal career to date and his extra pace over Mertesacker has eased the burden on Koscielny to cover every blade of grass.

LB: Nacho Monreal vs Nacho Monreal

The Spanish left-back is now a country mile ahead of his closest competition, Kieran Gibbs, at the club and he is usually one of the first names on the team sheet these days.

CM: Mikel Arteta vs Francis Coquelin

Tough one to call given their very different styles. Arteta, who is now a coach at Manchester City, very rarely put a foot wrong during his prime years at the Emirates.

However, Coquelin adds that much-needed aggression to Wenger's midfield and allows the more creative players ahead of him more freedom to strut their stuff.

CM: Santi Cazorla vs Santi Cazorla

When Cazorla is fit, Arsenal always look far more balanced in the middle. Alongside Coquelin, the Spaniard is excellent at feeding Mesut Ozil and co. and his deliveries from set pieces are invaluable.

RM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vs Theo Walcott

In 2014, Oxlade-Chamberlain had the world at his feet and scored twice against Palace in Bendtner's last appearance but his career appears to have stalled ever since.

In contrast, Walcott is enjoying a positive start to the season and it appears not being included in England's squad for Euro 2016 in the summer has given him the motivation to cement a place in Wenger's first choice XI.

CAM: Mesut Ozil vs Mesut Ozil

Ozil remains the Gunners most creative outlet and he can usually be relied upon to step up and prove the difference when they need him to.

Building the side around him has been Wenger's toughest challenge but the Arsenal boss knows keeping him fit is vital for any possible chance of a title challenge.

LM: Lukas Podolski vs Alex Iwobi

Podolski was a firm fan favourite during his time in north London but Iwobi's emergence into the first team this season has injected even more pace on the left flank.

The German's extra experience might just edge it at this stage, however, if Iwobi can continue to develop at his current rate, he could make that position his own for the next five or six years at least.

ST: Olivier Giroud vs Alexis Sanchez

Bendtner actually replaced Giroud off the bench for his final appearance in an Arsenal shirt.

The Frenchman is usually expected to lead the line when fit even now, but his constant injury niggles has meant Sanchez often has to deputise in a less familiar role.

If you are comparing the pair you'd say the Chilean has the edge based on his overall ability all over the pitch, however, it is fair to say both are significant upgrades on Bendtner.

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Thierry Henry
Alexis Sanchez
Nicklas Bendtner
Premier League
Mesut Özil
Arsene Wenger

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