Scattered in amongst the discarded youngsters and ageing professionals on the Premier League’s free transfer list, which was published yesterday, there was the name of a player who, at the age of 26, should ordinarily be approaching the peak of his footballing powers.
As we all know, however, Nicklas Bendtner doesn’t fit into the category of “ordinary”. His departure from the club had been in the offing for around three years, with moves to various sides breaking down at the last minute. From July 1st Bendtner’s ten-year association with Arsenal will officially be over.
For an outsider, from a purely statistical point of view, Bendtner’s time in North London would not appear to be too negative, as he registered 47 goals in 171 senior appearances, with many of those strikes coming at crucial moments. When you factor in the numerous missed chances, his indifferent ball control and his perceived arrogance, though, you begin to get a more rounded picture of events.
It may seem scarcely believable now, but there was a time when Bendtner was considered one of Arsenal’s brightest young prospects. After joining the club from Copenhagen in 2004, he immediately forged an excellent understanding with fellow striker Arturo Lupoli, before proceeding to feature in the Carling Cup the following season.
The tall forward enhanced his reputation further during his season-long loan spell at Birmingham City in 2006/07, with his performances earning him a lengthy contract extension at Arsenal as he achieved his aim of being promoted to the first-team squad. Over the next couple of seasons he became something of a regular, and scored several goals in the process, most notably his dramatic headed winner against Tottenham Hotspur in December 2007.
Bendtner always seemed to be something of an ill fit in Arsenal’s system. He was frequently deployed out of position on the right flank and often didn’t appear to be on the same wavelength as his teammates during the construction of passing moves. More important late goals followed, against Dynamo Kiev and Bolton Wanderers, but his off-the-field problems became more prominent, too, and he was used increasingly sparingly by Arsene Wenger.
Bendtner spent the past couple of seasons on loan, first at Sunderland, and then at Juventus, before making a surprise return to the Arsenal set-up this campaign. Again, he was largely unconvincing, but still weighed in with two goals.
With his time at Arsenal now finally coming to a close, Bendtner has an opportunity to resurrect his once-promising career. For all his faults, both as an individual and as a footballer, it would be satisfying to see him at least achieve some consistency at a relatively high level.