Tuesday 16 January 2018

Arsene Wenger: Bendtner will have to win back fans

Nicklas Bendtner is determined to regain full fitness and help Arsenal this season
Nicklas Bendtner is determined to regain full fitness and help Arsenal this season

Paul Hirst

Arsene Wenger has told Nicklas Bendtner he will have to work hard to win over Arsenal fans again.

With three games coming up in seven days, Wenger will give most of his first-team squad a rest for Wednesday's Capital One Cup third-round tie at West Brom.

One of the names on the Arsenal team sheet will almost certainly by Bendtner - a player who has divided opinion among Gunners fans since he joined from FC Copenhagen eight years ago.

His confident personality has made him a cult figure among some supporters, but it has grated others, who feel he is too cocky.

Many fans thought they had seen the back of Bendtner after he was shipped out on loan three times, but the 25-year-old has remained with the club and he will make his first appearance in over two years on Wednesday night.

"Fans forgive you everything as long as you produce the performances on the football pitch," Wenger said.

"That's what people want. I think our fans have a positive attitude towards Bendtner and they will be behind him.

"Only you can create that with your performances."

The last time Bendtner started a game for the Gunners was on March 5, 2011, when Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri were on the books at the Emirates Stadium.

After loaning Bendtner to Birmingham, Sunderland and then Juventus, Wenger tried to sell the Denmark international to Crystal Palace in the transfer window, only to see the deal fall through.

But rather than sulk, Bendtner has reacted well, according to Wenger.

"He has responded with a good attitude in training and with good, hard work," the Frenchman said.

"He had nearly gone somewhere else and in the end he stayed because it didn't work out and we needed him here.

"Now he can convince everybody. We are open minded, we believe in his qualities.

"I personally believe in his qualities. It's just down to attitude and fighting spirit.

"When he has that, Nicklas can be an unstoppable striker. He gets his chance. Our job is about that. Take your chance."

Although Wenger will be keeping an eye on Bendtner's display at the Hawthorns, he knows he must not lose sight of another at the opposing end.

Nicolas Anelka has not enjoyed the best of starts at West Brom, failing to score in four games, but Wenger still sees some of the qualities in the Frenchman that persuaded him to sign the player way back in 1997.

"He is not 40. He is 34 and that is quite young today," Wenger said.

"You do not play at the top level for such a long period if you do not have quality."

Wenger has turned many young players in to super stars during his 17-year reign at Arsenal, but even though Anelka left for Real Madrid after just two seasons in north London, he still takes pleasure in having played a part in the West Brom striker's development.

"I'm happy when I can help anybody to launch his career, to give him a chance in life and I'm especially happy for having done that with him," Wenger said.

"He's had a great career. He started at Arsenal in a very stylish and convincing way."

Wenger was on Tuesday rocked by the news that Theo Walcott will be out for over three weeks because he needs stomach surgery.

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