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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Get behind the players for God's sake

Nicklas Bendtner of Arsenal Football Club

Nicklas Bendtner will make his return to the pitch this evening in an Arsenal shirt. It seems that opinion is more than a bit mixed with regards the big Dane. From what I can see he is being hung out to dry by many for asserting that he had no wish to play for Arsenal again after being loaned to Sunderland two years ago. As ill-advised as he may have been to say such a thing you have to consider the fact that he was being loaned out because he was behind Van Persie and Chamakh in the Arsenal pecking order, and we were about to sign Park (who also returns to the Arsenal squad tonight) as well.
In the previous season Bendtner had been the main reason for us getting to the League Cup Final, with his superb individual effort against Ipswich not only turning the semi-final our way, but capping a brilliant tournament for him. He was then left out of the side at Wembley in favour of Tomas Rosicky who, at the time, was about as far removed from playing like a top level footballer as it's possible to be. When Nick finally got on the pitch he was out on the left wing. He had spent most of the past couple of years playing on the right wing. Is it any wonder he wasn't keen to make a return to play for Arsenal? He was well known for his high opinion of his own ability, yes, but he was still a very young boy. Didn't we all say stupid things when we were younger? The difference is that the comments of a high profile international footballer are always going to be amplified. When you're someone who has also developed a reputation for fancying himself a bit you really don't stand a chance.
I blame Matthew Le Tissier for a lot of the way Bendtner has been perceived thanks to a rabid media. Bear with me on this. Le Tissier is an incredibly embittered individual who chose to waste his talent behind a beer-gut and a wish to always be a big fish in the smallest of ponds down at The Dell. Don't get me wrong, he was an exceptional footballer but he never had any ambition. He could have gone just about anywhere he wanted in this Country, but he wasn't bothered. Maybe he lacked a bit of bottle. Perhaps that's why Glenn Hoddle didn't want him playing for his England side. In fact successive England bosses chose to overlook Le Tissier, so there must have been something that they didn't fancy about him. For some reason Le Tissier took against Nicklas Bendtner and would go out of his way to have a pop at our boy whenever he could on Soccer Saturday. I remember very well him going in to a long diatribe when Nick wore a pair of pink boots. His main contention was that Bendtner hadn't earned the right to wear coloured boots and "who does he think he is?" was the main thrust of Le Tissier's argument. I can think of worse things than coloured boots. After all, I don't remember him going in to one about John Terry's off field behaviour at a young age - peeing on a bar at the Christmas party anyone? Put together with Bendtner's comments about wanting to prove he could be the best striker in the World, which were deliberately twisted and misrepresented in the press, this created the idea that Bendtner was too big for those pink boots. There is no doubt that Bendtner thought he was better than he really was, but that didn't make him a bad player. Far from it in fact. However, the die was cast with many people and Bendtner was marked out.
Those who have been reading this site for the last three years will know that I was always a big defender of Nicklas Bendtner. His goals to starts ratio at Arsenal is pretty good for a young player, especially when you consider how rarely he played in his real position. He was also just about the only player in the squad for a couple of years that could deliver a cross. Unfortunately he couldn't also be in the middle to finish them off. Bendtner is a beast in the air and, as a man with a winning goal against Tottenham to his name, he should get a far smoother ride from Arsenal fans than he has. I made a point of applauding his name when it was announced on Sunday, amid a mixture of cheers and groans. I even have his name and number printed on one of my old shirts.
I met Nicklas Bendtner a couple of years ago and he seemed to me to be far more grounded than the press would have you believe. At that time he was on loan at Sunderland and was out injured. He seemed quite open to maybe having to return to Arsenal. He did okay, though no better than that, in a poor side up there. He struggled badly with form and injury at Juventus last season. Perhaps those experiences have opened his eyes to what he has suddenly been offered the chance to have with Arsenal. Playing with better players he might yet fulfil his considerable potential. It's certainly make or break for Bendtner and you get the impression from his public statements (albeit given on advice from people close to him, I'm sure) that he's a lad who knows this is it. I gave up on Bendtner over the last couple of years and saw him as a player I didn't want at Arsenal. I thought he'd become a waste of space. Maybe he had. But the fact is that he is now back at Arsenal. He is in the team tonight. He is the only real back up option to Olivier Giroud. At the very least he deserves the benefit of the doubt. More than that, he deserves to be given the proper support of the fans. Okay, he has some ground to make up and some bridges to build, but as long as he's pulling on a shirt with an Arsenal cannon on the front of it he'll get my backing. I hope he gets yours too. He is Nicklas Bendtner and he plays for Arsenal Football Club.

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