The odds on Nicklas Bendtner scoring a hat-trick against Porto were shorter than those of finding an alien life-form, but not by all that much. Bookmakers offer about 100-1 that we will discover the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. Last night the odds on Bendtner scoring his first hat-trick in senior football against the Portuguese champions were 40-1.
The Arsenal striker had been called many things, including the "Pantomime Dane", after missing three sitters against Burnley on Saturday. The only reason he managed to keep his place to face Porto in a game Arsenal had to win if they were to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals was because of the lack of any viable alternatives.
The three goals Bendtner scored were hardly memorable, unlike the two others by Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboué, both of which were outstanding examples of the magical football that Arsenal are capable of producing. His first was a smart reaction to stab home a loose ball, his second was a tap-in after wonderful work by Andrei Arshavin, and his third and final goal came from the penalty spot after Eboué was upended in stoppage time. But the record books will show a hat-trick, the first for any Arsenal player since Thierry Henry in 2006.
Bendtner said he was not thinking about proving people wrong following his catalogue of errors at the weekend. "Every time I play a game I put it behind me as soon as it's finished," he said last night. "Sometimes it's one of those days and today I put it right. I'm happy with my hat-trick but tomorrow we move on."
Bendtner has never been short of confidence, despite the knocks he has taken. The Dane has even been booed at times last season by his own supporters, fans who have grown up on the likes of Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and the imperious Henry. For them, Bendtner doesn't just not score enough, he looks ungainly when he misses. Yet despite it all he has managed to keep his self-belief intact. So much so that Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, expressed his hope that Bendtner's goals will not go to his head.
Wenger said: "It shows first of all how quickly football changes. I hope it will not give him too much confidence. It is good for him, I'm happy for him because he had a good game on Saturday, missed chances and today he had less chances and scored three goals. I hope it gives him the desire to work even harder.
"Football can change very quickly in three days, it goes quickly up and quickly down. It shows you he's not lost his confidence. He came back with focus and the same belief. It's one of his strengths. His confidence level is always stable. He has the size and presence we need."
If Bendtner needs inspiration in how to become an Arsenal legend, he could do worse than look at the example of Sol Campbell. The 35-year-old defender was playing his first home game for Arsenal since May 2006. His quiet performance at the back proved to be foundation for the side's victory. And when Bendtner beat Helton in stoppage time to score the penalty that brought him his hat-trick, Campbell was at his side to congratulate the young striker and bellow words of encouragement into his ear. Or perhaps he was telling him to keep an eye out for flying saucers.Reuse content