Category Archives: Nicklas Bendtner

Against Coventry, look to a Bendtner brace

It’s a bit dicey to predict who’s going to have a MotM-worthy performance, especially in an FA Cup match when the manager’s squad-selection casts an even-wider net than usual. Of course, there are a few players out of contention, namely Ramsey, Arteta, Sanogo, Diaby, Vermaelen, and Walcott. Speaking ahead of the unusual Friday-match (the first such match Arsenal have hosted in almost a decade), Arsène did mention that Nicklas Bendtner is fit enough to be called on, if necessary.

Good enough for me. Continue to rest Giroud and then surround Bendtner with midfielders who can provide plenty of service as well as width: Gnabry on the right, Podolksi on the left, Cazorla through the middle. Between the three of them, there’s enough variety to flummox Coventry. Cazorla’s balletic, jinky runs, Podolski’s hammer-like left, and Gnabry’s pace and incisiveness, on the right—these could all make for a very long afternoon for Coventry’s back-four, and a very productive one for Bendtner. With crosses whipping in from left and right, and with Cazorla and Podolski the two most-likely to unleash shots from distance, Bendtner should find plenty of opportunities for headers and second-chance put-backs of the sort that he’s feasted on in his few appearances. Well, okay, so “feasted” might exaggerate it just a bit when we’re discussing a man who has scored just two Prem goals. On the other hand, he’s been there when we’ve needed it, whether it was a second-minute goal against Hull or a more-crucial 88th minute goal to finally open up Cardiff. Let’s not forget that he did also score against Man City only to have it disallowed because the offsides rule at the Etihad means “anyone who ever gets behind Man City’s defense is offsides”. Two goals from 157 minutes leaves him scoring every 79th minute or so, which ain’t all that bad. Luis Suarez, in the form of his life, is scoring a goal every 69.4 minutes. I’m not equating the two or suggesting that Bendtner is in Suarez’s class by any stretch; after all, Bendtner’s sample size is a tenth of Suarez’s. All I’m suggesting is that Bendtner is not as piss-poor as his critics like to suggest.

He may never reclaim his status as The Greatest Striker That Ever Lived, but we don’t need him to. All we need is for him to play well. As the closest, one-for-one replacement that we have for Giroud at the moment, he can slot in without forcing any significant disruptions to how we set up or how others around him play (as we do when Podolski or Walcott slide over from the wings). Until we get another striker, Giroud is going to need some back-up. At the risk of getting a bit whiny, Giroud is looking ragged, Bendtner is hobbling on that tender ankle, Akpom has been loaned out, and Sanogo has been injured almost from the moment the ink dried on his contract. As such, we simply have to play Bendtner whenever we can afford to. Without slighting or underestimating Coventry (even though that’s what I’m about to do), Friday looks to be one of those times.

In fact, I hope that the Great Dane delivers not one, but two goals to help us progress to the next round. It was just around a year ago that we were bounced out by Blackburn due to our failure to score. With Man U’s inglorious defeat to Sunderland in the league cup, we have ample warning of how anything can happen in these single-elimination knock-outs.  I was thrilled to death to see Sunderland win, not just because it heaps misery on Mancunia, but because I do like to root for the little guy. Just not on Friday, thanks all the same.

Arsenal 2-0 Hull: Bendtner, I owe you an apology…

…of sorts. Like many Gooners, I’ve heaped abuse on the man, much of it richly deserved. Why, as recently as my last post before the match, I scorned him by saying that Hull’s aerial weakness is a problem “that even Nicklas Bendtner (should he get the nod over Giroud) should be ready to exploit”. Imagine my bemusement when, barely ninety seconds in, none other than Bendtner himself puts us ahead with a finely headed goal, his first Prem goal in nearly three years. He could’ve made it his second at the 14th minute when McGregor coughed out a rebound from an Özil shot, but he was caught flat-footed (no fault of his own, really). From that point on, he’d proven his worth, if only for the day, as we were able to ride out the rest of the match in fine fashion. Giroud? Rested. Three points? Claimed.

Let’s pause for a minute to give credit where credit’s due: me I did, after all, get nine of eleven starters named.  I called for Vermaelen in Koscielny and missed that, and slotted Walcott in on the wing only for Rosický to appear there instead of playing center-mid. Not too shabby. I also got the final scoreline right in my match preview. Okay, okay, I did also suggest a 3-0 final score, so I’m guilty of trying to have it both ways, but, as is my habit, I’m sweeping that under the rug for now. I trust you’ll do the same.

More pertinently, it is worth pointing out that Bendtner’s goal came from some nifty action along Hull’s left flank, as Rosický, along the sideline, played a back-pass to Ramsey who one-touched toward the endline for Jenkinson to cross into the box. Bendtner, bless his chonmage-ed cranium, nodded home. The traffic went all one way for most of the match, will Hull showing little threat on the counter, mustering only seven shots to our 20, putting only two on target. Szczesny claims yet another clean-sheet, but as I’m sure he’ll be the first to tell you, it’s largely because of the dominating performance in front of him.

We did dominate possession to the tune of 67% and the ball spent most of its time in Hull’s defensive half, which is no surprise. If there’s a nit to be picked, it’s that we didn’t run away from them as perhaps we “should’ have, as Liverpool did in their 5-1 thrashing of Norwich. Nit-picking. It’s always on offer but rarely worth pursuing.  Hull rarely threatened, nor did they look inclined to. Had it not been for Bendtner’s goal, one might have thought that they would be content to park the bus and hope for a point. It was not to be. In fact, they came way flattered a bit as we had a few chances that could have led to a rout.

Huh. Just sayin’.

Aside from Bendtner’s miss in the 14th minute (again, not a criticism as the rebound caught him wrong-footed), Aaron ‘effin Ramsey had a fine shot saved in the 31st minute, denying him a 14th goal on the season. Pause to appreciate that statistic. Last season, we were contented, perhaps ecstatic, that we had a someone tally 21 goals—on the season. Here it is, the first match of December, and we already have a man who’s two-thirds of the way there. We’ve just barely passed the one-thirds mark. Chew on that, Piers Morgan.

On the subject of Ramsey, let’s step back for a minute to enjoy the sublime pleasure of his assist. Working in tight space just after the half, he and Özil executed a tidy little give-and-go for the second goal. Credit Ramsey with the deft, no-look pass to Özil, who had little to do other than slotting home past a helpless McGregor.


Hull look like they’ll stick around the Prem for a bit, and I always root for the promoted clubs but for the times we clash with them. We arguably posed their most-difficult fixture to date, and, by Steve Bruce’s own admission, they were fortunate to avoid an “embarrassing evening” and were able to keep it respectable.

So it goes. We took care of business, which is more than Man U can say, losing at home to Everton. Southampton also lost at home to Aston Villa, and our other rivals eked out victories of varying degrees of quality. We’ll host a stubborn Everton side fresh off that victory at Old Trafford, but we’ll go into the match with four clean sheets and nine goals scored in our last four matches. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Bendtner’s boffo brace baffles Buffon

Recently, one of Arsenal’s most-promising talents put his foot in it with a public comment so foolhardy that he’ll have a hard time living it down. A lot of pundits and critics, yours truly included, took him to task for saying something he might have regretted the very instant the words spilled from his lips. I speak, of course, not of Jack Wilshere’s recent molehills made into mountains but of Nicklas Bendtner. He was 22 when, among other gaffes, he said the following:

If you ask me if I am one of the best strikers in the world, I say yes because I believe it. When I see that other strikers score a lot of goals, I realise I need to score those goals, but I think everything else in my game is right even if I believe I can still improve. The goals are the last thing I need to add and when I do I believe I will be the player I want to be. One of the best.

He hasn’t ever quite lived up to that boast, of course, but he’s shown glimmers of what he can do. Between then and now, he’s taken a lot of stick—some richly deserved; some, less-so—but he is hardly the worst person in the world, or the worst player to wear Arsenal red. As such, his performance last night against Italy offers a tantalizing glimpse of what he’s capable of: two sharp headers to beat one of the world’s (all-time?) best keepers, Gianluigi Buffon, on a night when Buffon became the azzuri’s most-capped player of all time, and in a match that Denmark really needed to win. That they came away with a tie can’t be pinned on Bendtner as Italy’s equalizer came on a cruel deflection in stoppage-time.

During the interlull, of course, we hope for certain things not to happen without worrying too much about what does. Don’t get injured. Goals and wins are nice and all, but, above all else, stay healthy. We’re through round one with one fresh injury, that on Laurent Koscielny. The silver lining around our squad’s raft of injuries is that many of them are not available for international duty. Fine. This first round saw little in the way of new injury, and this absence of a negative (by and large) is good news indeed; to have the presence of a positive is therefore encouraging.

Without making too much of the man, Bendtner delivered a fine performance for Denmark, and there’s fair reason to hope that he’ll find some confidence, er, fitness and form to bring back to Arsenal. He’s usually done better for country than for club, but maybe that will change. We’d be far better with him available and in-form than on the bench or on loan. Even if improved play is just a by-word for auditioning for a transfer, it’s a win-win. I don’t understand the urge to root against someone who plays for Arsenal. As long as he’s in the squad, we might as well hope for the best from him, even if it’s merely to make him more attractive to the next club down the line.

Of course, Bendtner’s flaw, this remarkable ego, does make it hard to root for him. I don’t know if he’s as insufferable as a Cole or a Nasri. He may full of himself, but he doesn’t seem to come across as being as insufferable as those two (lot of as’s in there, if you catch my drift). If he’s guilty of anything, it’s of letting his ego outstrip his performance. He wouldn’t be the first to have committed that sin. For strikers perhaps more than for other players, confidence is crucial, and there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The first, for our purposes here, derives its life-blood from performance; the latter simply feeds on itself without much else to support it. To come away with a brace against Italy should bolster Bendter’s confidence without inflating his arrogance—or so I’m telling myself.

We’re still a long way from having someone who can challenge or replace Giroud should he go down, and that’s not something we can effectively address until January at the earliest. There won’t be many top-flight strikers looking to make a move mid-year, whether it’s because they already play for a club challenging for silverware or because they don’t want to unsettle themselves in a World Cup year. That said, if we can continue on anything like the run of form we’ve been on since April, we’ll look more and more attractive. If Bendtner can contribute to that in any way, whether it’s in league cup, the Prem, or even the Champions League, that’s fine with me. Of course, in vintage Bendterian fashion, he celebrated his second goal by removing his jersey, drawing a yellow card, so he won’t be available for Denmark’s match next week against Malta and their -17 goal-differential. Sigh. One step forward, two steps back, eh, Nick? Maybe this just means he’ll be rested up for Norwich?

Until next time, thanks for stopping by. Before you go, please consider voting for Woolwich 1886 in the Football Blogging Awards’ “best new blog” category. You can click here to here to vote via twitter or here to receive an email ballot. Thanks!
!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);

Arsenal 4-3 West Brom (pen); undeserved, but, well…

It wasn’t pretty, but we managed to pull off the win, and that’s really all that counts. I do regret that West Brom came so close only to come away with nothing, for the league cup offers clubs the rare opportunity to do something famous. It’s similar to the movie Hoosiers, in which any club, no matter how small, has a chance to knock any club, no matter how large. We saw a dose of this last spring when Wigan knocked off Man City to claim the FA Cup. For the first sixty minutes and again for most of the rest of regulation and into overtime, West Brom simply outplayed Arsenal and arguably deserved the win more than we. That we came out with a win anyway proves only that outcome and effort are sometimes miles apart, for we were certainly not the better squad on the evening.

That said, there are few moral victories in sport, and so I doubt that there are many Baggies trudging home thinking, “well, at least we hung tough”. To those who are, it’s cold consolation, if any at all. I’ve been on the other side of such losses, and I’d almost prefer to have been roundly thrashed. Once Gnabry missed his spot-kick, I thought, “well, that’s it.” I can’t imagine (and don’t want to, either) what it must have felt like to be on the other end, thinking, “we’re going to pull this off” only to see not one but two misses slam shut the door. To have come so close only to see victory slip through their fingers must be agonizing, and I hope it doesn’t provide West Brom with too much motivation against us going forward.

Back to Arsenal. Back to Gnabry. For as much as we might bemoan the saved kick, let’s be honest. Penalties are a lottery. The shooter picks one of three basic options: left, center, right. The keeper chooses from the same. Even if the keeper matches the shooter, there’s placement, pace, timing. On the whole, Gnabry’s shot was among the better-taken of the ten. He just had the bad luck of being the only one whose shot was saved. Here, then, is a quick review:

  1. Reid: 8/10—well-taken, top-right corner and out of reach despite Fabiański guessing right.
  2. Bendtner: 6/10—decent but only midway between the center of goal and the right post. Good thing Daniels guessed wrong.
  3. Rosenberg: 4/10—very nearly down the middle, almost saved by Fabiański who dove to his left but almost deflected anyway.
  4. Gnabry: 5/10—similar to Bendtner’s but towards the left post. Daniels guessed correctly and parried.
  5. Morrison: 9/10—nearly perfect, top-left corner shot. The only element missing would be to have it glance in off the post.
  6. Olsson: 6/10—good shot, beating Daniels who guessed right. Extra point given for responding well to the pressure of the moment.
  7. Dawson: 1/10—plain and simple, you must make the keeper save, at a minimum. Putting it that far wide is inexcusable, especially given how a goal would have all but sealed the victory.
  8. Akpom: 5/10—again, another decent shot but only midway between the center and the post, benefitting more from the keeper guessing wrong than from the quality of the shot.
  9. Amalfitano: 1/10—as with Dawson, one must put it on-frame. Knowing that the squads were now level, it was all the more crucial to do so.
  10. Monreal: 6/10—similarly, the shot was midway between center and post and went in because the keeper guessed wrong.
That was enough to seal it. It may not be fair or just, but we advance and will host Chelsea in the next round, set for October 29 or 30. West Brom will nurse its wounds while we savor the win. I’d like to offer up a platitude along the lines of “that’s the way the ball bounces”, but it might be more-true to point out that we escaped by the skin of our teeth. On to a few other individual performances…
The Squad
Ah, to be Arsène Wenger. On one hand, you’re lambasted for rotating Academy players in. On the other, you’re lampooned for the injuries to first-team players. The critics can’t have it both ways. If Arsène plays Giroud, Ramsey, or Özil, he’ll be criticized for over-playing them. When he plays Gnabry, Akpom, or Miyaichi, he’s criticized for throwing in the towel. Sure, there’s a middle ground, a magical fairy-tale land in which every single signing works out exactly as planned (or in which a club can simply buy any available player), but that is, after all, a fantasy. Last season, we threw on a full-strength squad against Bradford and were humiliated. On this night, we threw on a squad of second-choices, the recently-injured, and the youth of today, and it worked out (barely). Whenever you throw together a bunch of players who are unfamiliar (and far from fitness—Nicklas Bendtner, I’m looking at you…), there’s bound to be some disjointedness and sloppiness. We got through despite that. On to a few players…
Nicklas Bendtner
Look, the man hadn’t played competitive football for club or country since May 2013. Between the width of his waist and the breadth of his beard, his aerodynamics were understandably off. For him to have played 120 minutes of football is therefore astounding. Well, “astounding” might be overstating it, but still. He delivered an assist on our only goal of the game, a well-weighted pass, and had a few chances that he might have delivered on had he been more in-form. His spot-kick may have been his first Arsenal goal since 2011, but it came at just the right time and with the appropriate amount of celebration.
Lukas Fabiański
Mr. Flappyhandski actually turned in a decent performance despite conceding the equalizer to Berahino. By the time the keeper has to make a save, I’ve always maintained, ten other guys have let him down in one way or another. To criticize Fabiański for failing to save a point-blank header misses the point. Where were our center-backs, each of whom towers over Berahino, on Berahino’s header? Why didn’t anyone close down on Shane Long to prevent his little chip? By the time the ball was in the net, a sequence of other failures preceded Fabiański’s. Otherwise, on the whole, he acquitted himself tolerably well.

Thomas Vermaelen
While it may be too early to memorize and declare lines from Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain!”, it was gratifying to see Vermaelen take to the field and perform as well as he did. According to, he led the team in interceptions, shots blocked, effective clearances, and passing accuracy. In the absence of a true, in-form defensive midfielder (Arteta working back from injury and Hayden being, well, 18), Vermaelen linked defense to offense quite well and looks to be regaining the form and confidence that had abandoned him a year ago. Should this hold true, a center-back rotation of Vermaelen, Koscielny, and Mertesacker could be formidable indeed.

Long story short, we may not have deserved this win, but we got it. There’s a tricky visit to Liberty Stadium to face Swansea on Saturday, and we’ve continued a run that has seen us win 17 of our last 20 competitive matches (including eleven in a row on the road). We may have underestimated Swansea a bit last year, but we won’t do so again this year. On top of that, this is a squad that wants to win and knows how, whether it’s a squeaky bum like tonight or a 3-0 over Fener. In either case, we’re on a nifty little run. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Villa and Bendtner: A Tale of Two Strikers

The contrast between David Villa, the striker we could have signed, and Nicklas Bendtner, the striker we just can’t get rid of, couldn’t be starker. On the one hand, Villa has left Barcelona for Atlético Madrid, a move that represents a significant pay-cut, not to mention prestige. Nothing against Atlético Madrid, but Villa has come down in the world just a bit. Or has he? In the eyes of this writer, his move is admirable. More on that in a moment. On the other hand, Bendtner has seen yet another potential move scuppered as Frankfurt has stated that “Bendtner has proven to be not realistic…with Arsenal, there are no problems. In other words, he seems to be resisting a move similar in many ways to Villa’s, and he’s doing so in a way that reveals his less-admirable qualities.

To be fair to The Greatest Striker to Ever Live, Frankfurt finished the year in sixth place in the Bundesliga, just good enough for the qualifying round of the Europa League—a destiny we’ve mocked more than once at this site. The man’s ego seems to have blinded him to certain realities, and while I’ve admitted that a certain level of arrogance is sometimes a quality that drives a player to greatness, this isn’t the case with Bendtner. His arrogance stands in the way of anything remotely resembling greatness. He hasn’t been good enough for Arsenal, wasn’t good enough for Juve, and apparently still thinks he’s better than Frankfurt. His continued insistence on Champions League-level wages is just so out of touch with reality that I begin to wonder about his mental health. Whether it’s his personality, his off-field antics, or his on-field performance, no one wants him. We’re literally trying to pay clubs to take him, which, last I checked, is kind of the opposite of how transfers work. He’s earning £50k a week, more than many of us will earn in a year, and this makes his arrogance that much harder to take. The deeper issue here is that it makes Bendtner seem like he’s in it more for the money than for the love of the game. One secret to a lifetime of happiness is to find someone who will pay you to do what you love. Bendtner’s been fortunate enough to have found that, but he now risks losing it. His resistance to playing for Frankfurt lays waste to the idea that he’s a competitor or a footballer. He’s a mercenary—and a picky one, at that.

By contrast, David Villa, even if he continues to play in the Champions League, appears as a paragon of virtue and the spirit of competition. He’s taken a considerable pay-cut in order to earn more time on the pitch, and he’s doing so for a much smaller team. The difference between Barcelona and Atlético may not be as vast as between Arsenal and Frankfurt, but the symbolism is entirely different. Villa, a proven performer at the highest echelons of European soccer, has swallowed his pride, taken a pay-cut, and moved down the ladder to a team perennially on the edges of European competition. Whereas Bendtner has sneered at opportunities, deeming them unworthy of his apparently immeasurable talents, Villa has sized up his options (which included, for a time, potentially signing with Arsenal for as much as £15m) and gone to a team that will give him plenty of opportunities to do what he loves, even if he’s doing so for a lower salary. He’s chosen the right answer to the age-old question: would you rather be a bit-player for a champion or a featured player for a scrappy one? Had he stayed with Barcelona, he’d have a virtual guarantee of silverware year in and year out, but he’d play sparingly—17 appearances of less than 45′ and only eight of a full 90′ this year, numbers that are sure to decline with Neymar joining the club. Yes, it’s far less-likely that Villa will get silverware with Atlético, but whatever he gets, for good or bad, he’ll know that he earned it through his efforts. I’ll take that attitude, hands down, over a guy willing to sit on the bench and cash checks each week.

Does Bendtner not sense the hollowness of his position? He sat on the bench with Juve and watched them win the scudetto—something I don’t think he can claim credit for based on how many appearances he made. He believes himself to be immensely talented, but there’s no hunger, no passion, no intent in his approach. He seems to want the world handed to him on a silver platter (and he’d probably check the silver’s purity before accepting). Arsenal, unfortunately, made the mistake of handing him that silver platter, and now we may be stuck with this arrangement until his contract runs out in June 2014. He’s only 25 and should see a chance to play for Frankfurt, a chance to lead the team to Europa League glory, as his redemption rather than his relegation. If he can’t see it that way, he probably won’t see the writing on the wall, and the football world will see him for what he really is: a spoiled, self-important wastrel. It’s not like he’s crippling our movements in the transfer-window, but the sooner we wash our hands of him, the happier I’ll be.

Neil Young once sang, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.”  Nicklas, my man, you’re fading, and fading fast.