It is rare for a player to be the best in all aspects of the game at the same time. Such players who can swing the game result single-handedly come once in a blue moon… So it was Arsenal’s fortune that Wenger managed to get one such extraordinary striker to sign for the club. Confident in his own abilities as “the greatest striker that ever lived” and ready to take on the world, the Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner chose to honour Arsenal with his presence. The superstar that he is, it did not take long for Bendtner to make his mark at Arsenal.
To celebrate his arrival and accommodate the vast fan following that came along with it, Arsenal moved to a bigger stadium the following year, matching the world-wide appeal of their newly acquired striker. On the field, Bendtner continued to take Arsenal to dizzying heights. He led the Gunners to a Champions League Final right away, and had it not been for the stupidity of Jens Lehmann, the side would have tasted European success then itself.
But Bendtner was not the kind who would get discouraged easily. In the years that followed, he single-handedly set up title challenges on Arsenal’s behalf which the side threw away, thanks to Wenger’s inexperienced management. Sick of the wasted chances, he decided to step up himself, and take charge. He made a mockery of teams, even Barcelona, passing the ball into their goal despite two defenders and the keeper between him and the goal. In the Premier League too, he was no less; scoring the winner against rivals Spurs within 1.8 seconds of coming on as a sub, showing that he could do in seconds what others couldn’t do in 90 minutes.
Nicklas showed his adaptability at the highest level guiding Juventus to the Serie A title during his loan spell there. Proving his versatility, he helped Sunderland to a comfortable mid-table finish, showing that he could play just as well for top European teams as well as Mid table sides. But his importance is best realized by the teams’ drop in performance without him.
In his absence, Sunderland barely scraped through the relegation battle last season and are not faring much better this time, as opposed to the solid mid-table finish he led the team to. Ditto with the Italian champions Juventus, who are now in 2nd place, playing catch up with league leaders Roma. And in the two year duration that he was at loan, Arsenal struggled too. Without him, Arsenal had less than average starts to the season both times, as opposed to the title challenges they have mounted with his aide. With his return, Arsenal are back at the top of the table, and should win the title if Wenger does not mess it up this time.
Arsenal’s position as League leaders is a testament to the all round game of Nicklas Bendtner, not just his attacking prowess. After all, is it just a co-incidence that Arsenal have not conceded a single goal in the PL this season when Bendtner was on the field? And how could they? When all 10 players are needed to mark the mercurial striker – 2 marking each limb of his and 2 for his head – to keep him from scoring, there is no one left to attack Arsenal’s goal, let alone score.
Bendtner’s mere presence in the squad terrorizes the opposition. Who then could blame Dortmund for missing their chances because they were constantly looking towards the touchline, fearing the introduction of the prolific Bendtner at any moment? With that in mind, it was no wonder that Robin Van Persie asked to be taken off the moment Bendtner came on at Old Trafford, lest he be humiliated by the Dane. The Dutchman did not dare to come into the camera view thereafter, fearing that a comparison with Nicklas be made… Moyes too realised the threat Bendtner carried and immediately brought on Fellaini to supplement the defense. The Belgian mid-fielder himself was dreading the prospect of facing the goal machine, so much that his hair were standing on end all the while.
With a touch that a 10 year old girl would be ashamed of – and a hairstyle to match – Bendtner showed that no team would score against Arsenal with him on the field, no matter how poorly he plays. Such is this fear and awe with which the opposition view him.
The football world finally has someone on the same level as the legendary Emile Heskey, a successor to his throne; one whom other Premier League teams would do well to be wary of.Published 11 Nov 2013, 22:18 IST