Making the Case for Nicklas Bendtner

"He's too slow to be a striker."

"His touch is shit."

"He can't finish."

"Just sell him."

There are a lot of Arsenal fans who say a lot of negative things about Arsenal players. Sometimes they're proven right (Pascal Gygan springs to mind), but just as often they go on to be proven fantastically wrong. In just the past year, we have seen perrenial Arsenal scapegoats Alex Song, About Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue make the leap from constant targets of abuse and doubt from their own fans to being recognized as talented, crucial contributers to the Arsenal cause. Yet for some, the hate continues to flow no matter what they do.

Such is the current state of Nicklas Bendtner. The big, cocky, loquacious Dane seems to split opinions of Arsenal supporters in myriad directions. Many think he is and will ever be nothing more than a donkey and should be sold to the first club who comes sniffing. Others think he does possess some of the qualities needed to be an effective striker, but will never be Arsenal-quality. Even his proponents usually have something negative to say about him.

I'll not sit here and pretend I've always thought Bendtner was a brilliant player. As short a time ago as last winter, I was slating Big Nick fairly regularly, just as seemingly everyone was all over Eboue, especially following his disastrous booing-off against Wigan and his sending-off at spurs. But while Eboue eventually became an object of pity and a poster boy for why fans shouldn't boo their own players (I'll go on record as saying it shouldn't ever happen), Nicklas has been given no such slack despite scoring some absolutely vital late goals the last two seasons. So why all the hate? Detractors of the big Dane say he doesn't score enough or frequently enough. Yet there are many Arsenal strikers down the years who have scored less often than Nick but have been held in higher regard. Case in point...

Most of you will fondly remember former Arsenal striker Nwankwo Kanu (who's still with Pompey if I'm not mistaken). The tall, lean Nigerian burst onto the scene in 1999, scoring some critical goals for Arsenal before gradually being phased out with the emergence of Thierry Henry. He became a fan favorite, with Highbury crowds frequently calling "KANUUUUUUUUUUUU" for his introduction or to celebrate when he scored. He was (and is) very much beloved by Nigeria, perhaps better celebrated by fans of his national team than by those of his clubs. His career totals for Arsenal show 197 matches played over 5.5 seasons, scoring 43 goals in all competitions, a strike rate of a goal every 4.58 matches.

Additionally, Sylvain Wiltord, the hero who won the league at Old Trafford in the 2002 Double year, and who in 2008 was voted 33rd best player in Arsenal history by Gunner fans, scored 49 times in 175 matches, a strike rate of a goal every 3.57 matches. Not too shabby, and an Arsenal legend to boot!

Nicklas Bendtner has netted 35 times in 116 matches for Arsenal, averaging a goal every 3.3 matches.

Certainly, that should be enough to endear him to the faithful. True, he never scored a league-winner like Wiltord (although to be fair, Arsenal haven't won the league in his three seasons), nor sunk a still-shit Chelsea team with a 15+ minute hat-trick. But let's look at some of the more crucial goals Nick HAS scored:

22nd of December, 2007: Bendtner comes on as a late substitute in a 1-1 match at home against Spurs. Bendtner heads a cross from Cesc in the 90th minute, breaking the deadlock for Arsenal to win another North London Derby with his first Premier League goal.

25th of November, 2008: Another late deadlock, another winner from Bendtner. A scoreless home match with Dynamo Kiev is won with an 87th minute Bendtner strike after running on to a long ball from Cesc. The Dane finishes, and Arsenal lock up advancement from the Group stage.

13th of March, 2010: Despite a man advantage after Jerome Boateng's sending off, Arsenal were unable to gain a winner with the match at 1-1. But in the 93rd minute, a long shot from Denilson was badly parried by Hull 'keeper Myhill, and Bendtner burst forth to stick away the rebound for another last-gasp winner, and days later, legendary cunt Phil Brown is sacked by the Hull board.

3rd of April, 2010: Marcus Hahnemann made saves all over his goal to keep a dominant Arsenal team from scoring against Wolves, again in spite of a man advantage (the equally cuntish Carl Henry being sent off). Deep into injury time, substitute Bendtner creates enough space in the box to take a fantastic header past Hahnemann to win at the death for the Gunners. I personally lose 3/4 of a pint of Guinness and a pair of sunglasses while celebrating this win.

And still the haters begin, "Yes, but..." But what? The boy has negatives, as do all players. But let's look at what he does give us, rather than what he doesn't. He's big, which sets him apart from all other Arsenal forwards and all Arsenal players but Sol Campbell. He's strong enough to hold off a big center-half and create space (see Wolves). He doesn't run offside 20 times a game like Adebuywhore, who he hated long before you and I did:

He has an absolute penchant for rescuing Arsenal with late goals to equalize and to win matches. And for all this, he's only just turned 22 this season. Didier Drogba was 24 before he scored 15 goals or more, and that was in Ligue 1. Will Bendtner ever be what Drogba is today? Probably not. Nor will he ever be Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp. But he is currently a valuable player, and at his young age it stands to reason that he can improve, while Drogba probably won't.

Finally, for all those who think that Nicklas will never amount to much and that we should sell him now... just think where we would be if we had followed that advice when people were calling for the heads of Song, Diaby, Eboue and so many others. Arsene Knows...

We're off this weekend, so enjoy the sunshine. Arsenal visit Shite Hart Lane on Wednesday to renew our rivalry with Spurs, akin to the rivalry between Hammer and Nail. We're out of Europe, but we're still in with a shout for the league, and with United playing Fergie's old pal Allardyce and his Blackburn shitkickers (read: the fix is in) while Chelsea host Bolton, we need the points as much as we need just to beat the scum and bring St. Totteringham's Day that much closer...


And stay classy.