Bendtner in firing line over striking failure
Thursday 26 February 2009
Amid the relief of victory, the strong displays from a series of players and the absurdity of Kolo Touré's caution for being late for the second half, there was a familiar complaint following Arsenal's Champions League victory over Roma: the failure of Nicklas Bendtner to prove again that he is as good a striker as he thinks he is.
The Danish international was once more afforded a starting place – albeit one that mainly involved playing wider on the left against the Italians with a rejuvenated Samir Nasri moving inside – by Arsène Wenger, whose belief in his abilities is not universally shared. Tactically, Wenger's approach worked perfectly. And yet Arsenal have nothing more than a single goal advantage – and a clean sheet – to take to Rome with them in two weeks' time. In missing chances, Bendtner was the main culprit and although he helped construct Robin Van Persie's winning penalty, his contribution was still booed by many Arsenal supporters, frustrated at his inability to finish.
"I would have liked to score myself but it wasn't to be," Bendtner said afterwards. "Sometimes these things happen. The most important thing is that we won. I'm happy to have contributed to winning the penalty. As long as I know I gave my contribution I can leave here with my head held high. We had a good grip on the match and we were unlucky that we didn't score more goals. We are all feeling confident ahead of the game in Rome. I still think we can go further."
Bendtner has only just turned 21 but the regularity with which he misses chances is a real concern in a side that may not be conceding goals but is desperately struggling to score them also. Indeed, Tuesday's goal was not from open play, while just one in four in the Premier League is an astonishing return for a team with such attacking intent.
Bendtner has struck eight times this season in 32 games, which is not a good enough rate, especially with Arsenal's other strikers struggling and at 6ft 4in he is strangely ineffective in the air, while his first-touch has deserted him. Emmanuel Adebayor may return in time for the second leg but has hardly been at his best, Eduardo is unlikely to feature, while Andrei Arshavin is ineligible. As well as Van Persie played, he is no more prolific.
An added irritation for supporters has been Bendtner's perceived arrogance. He is understood to have had a difficult relationship with Thierry Henry, while he was also involved in the dispute William Gallas had with his team-mates earlier this season. And then there was the on-field clash with Adebayor at White Hart Lane last year. Recently Bendtner was quoted as saying he had never seen Arshavin play and that he should be starting every match, although he was quick to point out that the comments, made to a Danish magazine, were boiled down and taken out of context. However, his history has made such allegations stick.
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