Arsène Wenger believes Nicklas Bendtner has a point to prove at Nottingham Forest as the former Arsenal striker faces his old club on Tuesday in the third round of the EFL Cup.
Bendtner spent nine years at Arsenal, during which time his reputation as one of the best young strikers in Europe consistently diminished. Following loan spells at Birmingham City, Sunderland and Juventus, he joined Wolfsburg in 2014 having scored 45 goals in 171 appearances for Arsenal.
His time in Germany was mixed and after his contract was terminated in April he joined Forest this month on a free transfer. Representing a club who sit 13th in the Championship is not how Bendtner would have imagined his career panning out when he was declaring himself as having the potential to become of the greatest forwards in the world and that is why Wenger feels the 28-year-old will want to give his all for Forest.
“Of course he has a point to prove – he’s playing at a level where he is not used to,” the Frenchman said. “But he did start his career at this level at Birmingham City with Steve Bruce, where he did very well. Nicklas is focused enough to show he can fight again.
“It was a surprise to me that Nicklas signed for Nottingham Forest, but at some stage Nicklas needs to restart his career.
“You have to adapt and we are in a job when we have to show we are able to put our effort in everywhere and compete. Sometimes when you are a player of his quality, you just need an opportunity. We know his qualities and he is a top quality player, but he needs to play.”
Bendtner’s high regard for himself is such that Emmanuel Frimpong, a former team-mate at Arsenal, once superimposed the Dane’s head on a photograph of Lionel Messi winning the Ballon d’Or and posted it on social media. Then there is the Lord Bendtner nickname. Wenger is adamant such characterisations of the player are unfair. “The perceptions people have of him is that he is overconfident but I don’t think so,” he said. “He was sometimes impatient when he was with us. He was disappointed not to get the chance and you can understand that.
“I am not here to judge people. Sometimes you manage to get it and sometimes we do not find the key. Then you have to leave the key to someone else who has the potential to find it. Nicklas could explain much better than I can about his career.”
Bendtner has made two appearances for Forest but is yet to score for Philippe Montanier’s side. Asked if he will celebrate should he find the back of the net against his former employer at the City Ground, Bendtner said he would. “But I won’t go crazy,” he added. “I have a lot of love and respect for Arsenal as a club.”