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The enigma that is Nicklas Bendtner

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One second before every Arsenal supporter ran around screaming like a child.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
One second before every Arsenal supporter ran around screaming like a child. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

One of the perils of fielding a young team, as every Arsenal supporter will say, is that it requires almost saintly patience from everyone involved.  Mistakes will be made in matches; trophies may not come for a few years.  When this happens, blame generally falls on individuals, warranted or not.

Nicklas Bendtner, for a long time, has been the target of a good deal of blame.  Until this spring, supporters would point to his mistakes in front of goal, his losing of the ball, his failure to finish easy chances.  To some extent, scoring 9 in 11 in Europe and the EPL this spring quieted his critics.

But for some, the 22-year old forward will never be good enough, despite the fact that he's nowhere near his peak, and despite the fact that he's scored a number of absolutely immense pressure goals over the past three years (e.g. his super sub header vs. the Spuds, his work vs. Liège, his last-gasp effort vs. Wolves this year).  He also has provided a key presence for Denmark's run to the World Cup this qualifying campaign, and will no doubt prove to be a huge figure in their hopes for the tournament.

A great article by Walter Broeckx at Untold Arsenal argues that writing off Bendtner this early in his career, at age 22, would, if the same thought applied to every other 22-year old, write off some other players who are "okay" at football (read the article to find out specifically whom it refers to.  Hint: he's the kryptonite to Arsenal's Supermen).  Nobody would argue that Bendtner has always been great or provided something constant for Arsenal besides goal-scoring, but there are glimmers of promise there.

If Bendtner does get a good run of games, he seems to improve with each of them, a striker's confidence that grows stronger with time.  With a healthy (knock on wood) Robin van Persie and the newly-arrived Marouane Chamakh in the team for next year, it will be interesting to see how much and in what ways Arsène Wenger uses the Danish forward.  Whatever he does, Arsenal supporters should remember that, at age 22, even the scourge of the earth himself was only scoring 1 in 5 in the French second division, and maybe everyone can rest a little easier.