Living in his own parallel universe must have been great fun for Nicklas Bendtner while it lasted, but now it’s time for him to re-join the real world. That’s if he’s serious about saving his career.
A sensible place for the good but definitely not yet great Dane would be to stop saying (and believing) that he’s “one of the better goalscorers in the world.”
A few years back when he was fresh-faced and quite likely repulsed at the thought of a silly Pebbles-style ponytail, Bendtner had the potential to reach that kind of plateau. Now, aged 25, that dream has long since left the station.
Confidence is one thing - a very important thing in the world of professional football - but not at the expense of realism. When you say something out loud that everybody else knows is just puff and bravado, respect is lost.
Handed an entirely unexpected and really rather fortuitous second chance by Arsenal, it’s now down to the man himself to remember what self-awareness feels like. If he can, it will quickly dawn on him that for starters he must first prove he’s one of the better goalscorers at his club. The planet? That can come later.
Although he should take responsibility for his actions, my first instinct is to shift a proportion of the blame to Bendtner’s friends and family for allowing his ego to spiral out of control.
Young and successful professional footballers are spoilt rotten. Before they’ve even achieved anything, they have it all and if you’re not mentally strong it can play tricks with your mind.
Clubs employ specialists for most things, including psychologists, but keeping control of what individual players actually think of themselves is near on impossible. That’s when their nearest and dearest become so important. If you’re behaving like an absolute twerp, someone has to tell you!
Seemingly without being pulled to one side and told to buck his ideas up, Bendtner has gone on to accrue quite a list of ‘crimes’ in recent years, some more serious than others.
The consequences of those actions have left him considerably poorer, without a driver’s licence, unpopular with his employers, slated by fans, left in the cold by his country, and unable to regularly see his young son. The fact he’s hardly kicked a ball in anger for two years almost pales into insignificance.
It’s fair to say that the 25-year-old’s life has been turned so upside down, that now even he can see what a mess he’s made of things. Personally, I really want to see Bendtner to get his life and career back on track.
Although he could and should have gone about it better, I don’t blame him for wanting to leave the Gunners two years ago. At 23 he needed regular first team football and it was obvious he’d slipped too far down the pecking order to stand a chance. At that time, it was right for him to seek pastures new. For one reason or another, primarily his wage demands, it didn’t happen. And now he has one last chance to prove he can cut it at Emirates Stadium.
On his return last night I was quietly impressed. It wasn’t the glorious headline-grabbing return he’d perhaps dreamed of but the Danish centre forward played well. His body language was good, he linked play nicely, cleverly made Arsenal’s goal and scored in the penalty shoot-out. Considering he must have been knackered for at least the last hour or so, he did remarkably well.
I was told last week that Nicklas has turned over a new leaf and is determined not just to restore his reputation between now and January, but to earn himself a new contract with the Gunners too. I like that positivity and I like that attitude. But let’s take one step at a time.
This is a player that’s currently Arsenal’s second-choice striker by total default. He now has three months, providing he behaves and dedicates himself to his job, to show he is good enough to remain in that privileged spot until the end of the season.
That’s a realistic goal, that’s living in the real world. That’s all Nicklas Bendtner has to do.
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Catch Adrian Clarke's Professionally Speaking column here every Thursday.