Sunday 22 July 2018

Age of Bendtner either long gone or never even existed

Nicklas Bendtner
Nicklas Bendtner

Jonathan Liew

In all likelihood, it was merely coincidence that Nicklas Bendtner's first start in an Arsenal home game for two and a half years was marked by the worst storms to hit London in half a decade.

And yet it is easy to imagine Bendtner believing it: standing atop his king-sized bed at 4.0 on Sunday morning as debris crashed against his window, his arms outstretched, his gold-trimmed pyjama bottoms fluttering in an imaginary breeze, enraptured by his mastery of the elements.

The truism about Bendtner is, that however good he becomes, he will still never be as good as he thinks he is. A few years ago Arsenal's sports psychologist Jacques Crevoisier revealed that in testing, Bendtner had scored 10 out of a possible nine in the category called "self-perceived competence".

Following Arsenal's weekend win over Crystal Palace (he was an unused substitute), he spent Sunday in Harrods, posting a photograph of himself on Instagram dressed in a fedora hat and waistcoat. It is an image that gives us some idea of how Bendtner sees himself: elegant, cultured, a gentleman cut from the finest cloth.

If this is an image rather at odds with the popular view of him as a supermarket-own-brand Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then naturally the fault is ours alone.

This, his first start here since the Sunderland game in March 2011, was one last attempt to marry his imagination with ours; to reconcile the striker of 24 international goals – more than any Arsenal player besides Lukas Podolski – with the one who was reportedly offered £3m by his own club to leave.

And yet if we learned anything last night, it was that the Age of Bendtner is either long gone, or perhaps never existed in the first place.

In an age where the striker is a team's first line of defence, Bendtner is something of a retro throwback: never running when he can jog, never jogging when he can walk. Here, his first touch of the ball came five minutes in, an ugly ricochet off both his shins. Soon after came his first shot, a volley from 25 yards that clattered straight into the head of Gary Cahill.

That was about as good as it got, alas. Bendtner spent his evening spurning the ball on the rare occasions it came to him and generally looking disappointed. "Take him off, for his own sake," Piers Morgan tweeted. "This is embarrassing."

To everyone's surprise, if not his own, he emerged for the second half, but there were to be no miracles tonight. On 55 minutes, he received the ball on the penalty spot with a clear shot on goal, only to lay the ball backwards to Aaron Ramsey. By this stage, the barracking from his own fans was intensifying. "Get him off!" they screeched.

Now Arsenal look like a genuinely class act again, Bendtner is viewed like an unflattering old photo of one's younger self: with a mixture of disdain, embarrassment and shame.

Naturally, he remained oblivious to all this. "Within five years," he once said, "I want to be the top scorer in the Premier League and known as a world-class striker. And it will happen. Trust me, it will happen."

That was four years ago, and even as he strode off after 67 forgettable minutes, applauding a crowd that was at best indifferent to him, he still emanated a hubristic swagger, the brick-built certainty of a man still convinced of his own genius, still convinced the masterplan is coming together.

You could almost read his mind. Never mind the crowd. Never mind the stats. Nicklas Bendtner's time will come again. Trust him, it will happen. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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