Category Archives: Arsenal

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Rogues Gallery: Nicklas Bendtner

God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Hamlet, the Danish prince. A man with a volatile nature. One moment on top of the world and the next hiding from it. It could be so easily Nicklas Bendtner. Unfortunately, Hamlet is a man of introspection, whilst Bendtner never seems to learn from his often repeated mistakes. Hamlet is a character, whilst Bendtner is a mere caricature. He has become a person so hated by some fans, one fan said of his being let go at the end of 2014 season:-

Bendtner released ? Should of staked him on the centre spot tonight and let the jnr gunners at him

— SheWoreAYellowRibbon (@SheWore) May 23, 2014

 

Its hard to think that many, many years ago (less than 10 even), Nicklas Bendtner was held in pretty high esteem by the club and even some fans. Where did it all go so horribly wrong?

If Bendtner signifies anything about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger‘s management it is the importance of youth and the changing policy towards having English and foreign players within the premier league. One year after Arsene Wenger joined, Howard Wilkinson introduced the Charter for Quality, which meant that players under the age of 12 had to live within an hour of the training facilities and an hour and a half for 15 year olds. Therefore, Arsenal’s youth policy often meant looking beyond these area’s and borders and abroad for players and housing them near the training facilities of the club. Therefore, Arsenal had signed Bendtner from F.C. Copenhagen in 2004 The Official Arsenal Opus a book written in 2006 but published in 2011 discussed how Bendtner was seen as ‘another highly promising striker’ [alongside Arturo Lupoli]. The beginning of what would be termed project youth.

The introduction of Nicklas Bendtner for his debut as a sub in 2005 against Sunderland and a further two games that season hardly informed us of what was about to arrive at the club. At a time when Thierry Henry was seen as the focal point of the team, very few people could reach a feeling of self accomplishment and possibly arrogance except Nicklas. Philippe Auclair excellent book on Henry commented:-

The dressing room [of season 2005-6] of which Thierry was now undisputed leader was filled with newcomers, not all of whom – we’ll make an exception for Bendtner – had the force of character to claim a space of their own.

Any football player needs self confidence. A young player moving to a foreign country even more so, but Bendtner’s went way beyond self confidence, Bendtner seemed to suffer a Narcissistic personality disorder, which is :-

A person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process.

I am no psychologist, but much of his behaviour seems to fit.

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Anyhow, after 3 games in 2005-6 Bendtner would be loaned (along with Johan Djourou) to Birmingham City in the championship for season 2006-7. In 38 appearances (plus for sub appearances) for the club he would score 11 times and get sent off once. Steve Claridge commented of him in an article of his time there  (rather ironically now):-

Some say he is a target man, but that’s too simplistic because he was prepared to come short, link play and commit defenders, finding other players who were unmarked because of his own good play. At times he needs to keep closer to his partner, because he’s usually the one to flick the ball on. But his work rate was good throughout and, the more you watch, the more you realise that this is a player blessed with a fabulous all-round talent. I just hope that, as with all players who find the game relatively easy, he’s prepared to work at the things that don’t come naturally as well as the things that do.

Proof of Bendtner’s self confidence was on display from the start when he started dating the Birmingham City manager’s, Steve Bruce, daughter Amy (see picture below). Bruce had to come home from work and find his star striker in his own home! Hardly what many employee’s would do unless you are Nicklas Bendtner. That he then dumped her whilst the Bruce family were on holiday in Marbella hardly made him popular either. At least his goals helped Birmingham get promoted though.

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After a successful season, Bendtner returned to Arsenal. I was fortunate enough to see his first goal for Arsenal in a 2-0 win over Newcastle in the League Cup , with a great header at the back post [video below was the only one I could find of the goal].

This was Bendtner at his best. He worked hard, was industrious and seemed a confident lad.

But for all Bendtner’s faults (and my god, there are a few), I’ll always hold him in high esteem for his first league goal on 22 December 2007. Against Spurs. In a season in which Arsenal had lost Thierry Henry to Barcelona in the summer, few had given us a chance. But there we stood. Top of the league and playing Spurs at home before Christmas. In a game where Arsenal were often slow, Spurs often (though it pains me to say) were often on top. Although Adebayor had put us 1-0 up, Spurs equalised in the second half. Then, disaster. Spurs got a penalty, with the odious Robbie Keane to take it. Up he stepped and Almunia saved (a term rarely used in a sentence).

Still one all. Spurs had already brought on the saviour of British football (and Spurs), Tom Huddlestone. All week prior to the game, the British press had been talking up his importance especially in the derby match. How true. Four minutes after the save, Bendtner came on as a sub just as we were about to take a corner. A gentle jog up to the front post and then a burst of speed as Cesc corner comes in. Huddlestone just watches. 2-1 Arsenal and top of the league.

What could possibly go wrong from now on in Bendtner’s career? Well, just so much really.

Even in his opening season, Bendtner could not help but get into some form of trouble. Most famously when Arsenal were playing Spurs in a cup semi-final in 2008 and he and Adebayor came to blows. Adebayor said afterwards of the incident:-

I had a little difficult moment with Nicklas Bendtner.There was a rule at Arsenal where no one is allowed to come into the dressing room with trainers or house shoes on. I cannot understand why Nicklas came every day with his shoes on.

Nicklas, you are a footballer, I am a footballer, maybe I am better than you, maybe you are better than me but you have to respect everyone. There are rules saying you cannot come into the dressing-room with your house shoes. Take them off.

According to Adebayor, Bendtner “never took them off and things started from there. I cannot accept that”.

Bendtner was also remembered for his first season in 2007/8 for his clearance off the line against Liverpool in the quarters of the ECL. Unfortunately it was against his team mate Alexander Hleb against Liverpool:-

Although Bendtner had ability, for example the hat tricks he scored against Porto in 2010 :-

A game I think Tim might recall?

Or even the hat trick against Leyton Orient in the F.A cup:-

Nothing can mask that Bendtner was a good player, but if one game sums Bendtner up it was the miss in 2011 against Barcelona Camp Nou.

Kevin Whitcher described it thus:-

Going through on goal with just the keeper to beat, Nicklas Bendtner – ‘one of the world’s top strikers’ as described by himself – demonstrated the classy technique that makes him so feared by opposition defenders. If only. With an illusionary first touch that negated lessons that had been installed into him by Arsene Wenger, Bendtner ensured that the one and only chance of pulling off a shock result in Camp Nou was gone.

If his performances on the pitch were laughable, his attitude off it was worse. Where does one start. The shirt number of 52 for the amount of thousand per weeks he was paid? Maybe whilst on loan in Sunderland going on a wrecking spree in Newcastle with Lee Cattermole whilst drunk? Perhaps going to collect his pizza in Copenhagen, going down the wrong side of the road whilst under the influence?  His saying he did not want to return to Arsenal in 2011 but did so in 2013? His flagellation of a taxi in Denmark whilst Drunk? Maybe It is starting his own jewelry firm? Its a selection of them all. Thank god he never did anything foolish, like meet a princess or a member of the royal family and have a child. Wow. He did that too.

Although Nicklas Bendtner did come back this season after a loan period at Juventus (9 appearance and 0 goals), in many ways it was because Yaya Sanogo was injured and we had no one else to cover Olivier Giroud. Although he did score two goals this season. One against Hull City:-

One against Cardiff (in which he got immediate injured. Could only happen to Bendtner):-

By the end of this season I think Wenger felt incredibly let down by Bendtner. His whole ‘project youth’ had come to an end and Bendtner was the last remnant of this. Bendtner had been rewarded well and played badly. In many ways Wenger should take responsibility for this, especially when at one stage he was using him as a winger when he had neither pace nor guile for a tall man to cross (a tall man like…..Bendtner). He was also paying a lot of money on a long contract to a player who was just too arrogant and often lazy. By march 2014, Bendtner beating up a taxi had finally meant Wenger had enough. He said of the incident:-

Nobody gave him (Bendtner) any permission to go to Copenhagen. He will be fined for that.

Wenger therefore used Sanogo more and Bendtner was frozen out. His last cup game against Coventry, where he had a quite shocking game. Below, is one of his two misses:-

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Bendtner’s contract expired this year. Its hard to think he’s just 26. In his time at Arsenal he has scored 45 league and cup goals (I never knew it was that many):-

He had played 80 games and 85 as a substitute (a goal ratio of 1 in four games). To nearly all fans he was a terrible disappointment. He had talent. He had confidence. But he had no humility and believed he ‘was the worlds greatest striker that ever lived’, leaving him open to much ridicule from Arseblog who referred to him by the acronym TGSTEL.

My favorite Bendtner moment was him getting to enjoy watching Arsenal win the F.A cup [added because I still enjoy seeing it]:-

Then possibly my second would be watching twitter to see what Gav on Shewore and his twitter account would rant at Bendtner. My favourite? Well, the one below had the least profanity.

Nice to see nick Bendtnerget a shirt number with his worth in pence #NB23

— SheWoreAYellowRibbon(@SheWore) September 6, 2013

I would say good luck Bendtner, but its hard to say it when he seems to waste what he had. I mean, look at the picture at the start of the article?

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Welcome Debuchy but what about Jenkinson? And if Arsenal buy a Khedira what about Wilshere?

Not much special going on today so let’s talk a bit about transfers.

Debuchy’s signing was announced yesterday and this is fantastic news because that marks Arsenal down as having bought 2 of the 5 positions that they need filled this summer. The best part is that we have made two major signings and we haven’t yet played our first pre-season friendly.

There was some speculation earlier that perhaps Arsenal didn’t need to buy a right back after Sagna left and the Debuchy signing put that to rest. Debuchy is a 28 year old French International with 18 months of experience in the Premier League starting every weekend. I think it’s also symbolic that Wenger bought the French player who kept Sagna from starting during this World Cup. This may be unpopular because Sagna was a fan favorite but Debuchy is an upgrade on Sagna.

Debuchy is younger than Sagna and he’s a more balanced player. When I compared Debuchy to Sagna and Aurier, the difference is stark: Aurier played as an attacking wing back at Toulouse, Sagna kind of didn’t do either defense or offense and instead was more of a passing outlet, and Debuchy was smack in the middle of the two.

Particularly impressive were Debuchy’s defensive stats for Newcastle. Comparing him against his own team’s percentages he made 17% of Newcastle’s tackles, 12% of their interceptions and 10% of their fouls.

Sagna wasn’t horrible but rather Debuchy was just very active defensively. Debuchy also can fill in for Sagna in the aerial duels department: Sagna has long been an outlet for Szczesny and Debuchy will hopefully continue in that role, he did after all win 4/5.7 headers per game at Newcastle.

 

I know that many people thought (hoped?) Jenkinson would get the starting job and some people went so far to suggest that Jenkinson and Bellerin could do the job but I think this signing puts that idea to bed and tucks it under Jenkinson’s Arsenal bedsheets. Wenger left the door open to Jenkinson saying that he can compete for the spot and further that he hasn’t made his mind up about who will be starting but that said I see this as another transition year for Jenkinson.

The crucial pairing, and probably deciding factor, will be right back and right forward. Jenkinson and Walcott do not seem to get along well in that regard. My observations are that Jenkinson tends to park far too forward and expect Walcott to cover for him. Walcott, being a striker, naturally doesn’t like this. The two of them publicly fought on the field several times with Walcott telling Jenks to stay back and Jenkinson shining Walcott on.

That issue is only going to be exacerbated with the signing of Sanchez who is an outright striker and will not cotton to having to run all the way back to defend for Jenkinson. And I have no problem with this, we didn’t buy Sanchez for £30m to play right back, we bought Sanchez to do the minimum defense up front (pressing and harassing) and to win us games with goals.

Sanchez’ strengths at Barcelona were that he took almost all of his shots inside the opposition box, which is what led to his outstanding conversion rate. You want a striker with a 30% conversion rate? He needs to play deep in the opposition area. For Sanchez to be an efficient goal scorer we need him to have the freedom to get in the opposition 18 yard box and cause havoc. He can’t do that while defending in our final third so that the fullback can whip in crosses to no one.

One other oddity that Wenger mentioned in the interview about signing Sanchez is that Sanchez could play in any of the positions up top, including through the middle and “with Giroud in a 4-4-2″. Now, I don’t know if Wenger is messing us or not and I struggle to think who he might play on the wings (Ox, Podolski, Cazorla, Rosicky? Özil would be wasted out there) but there might be a clue in there as to why Wenger is looking at Khedira. During Wenger’s most successful era he played with two in base of the midfield: Parlor and Vieira, Petit and Vieira and it was Gilberto and Vieira. That’s why Khedira and Ramsey is a mouthwatering prospect in midfield but it leaves so many questions: where to put Özil, and probably most worryingly, where does Wilshere fit into all this?

Wilshere’s stock has fallen off a bit (and I am not at all talking about his smoking) with even some of the most famous Arsenal personalities starting to wonder about his development. At this point in his career I’m more of the mind that he suffered a bit from his injury and frankly he suffered in light of the hugely successful season Aaron Ramsey had.

But the fact remains that he can’t take Özil’s place as the creative midfielder, he doesn’t seem to have the engine to take Ramsey’s place in midfield, and he’s not a defensive midfielder (at least not that he has shown so far). He’s also not a wing player, a forward, or a defender. So, if Arsenal splash the big cash on a player like Khedira or Bender where does Wilshere fit?

With Jenkinson on the bench? And how long will he be happy doing that?

Qq

Khedira

Khedira’s salary, where he fits, and is he coming to Arsenal?

If you’re going to take the ideas from this blog and make them your own, I’ll make it easy for you.

  1. The Arsenal-Khedira links are real, regardless of what the agent is saying publicly.
  2. The press in Britain and Spain are struggling with Khedira’s current salary, despite reliable reports detailing exactly how much money he makes a year.
  3. Khedira is asking for more money than he’s already on at Real but the rates I’m hearing are in line with the difference between his Real salary and what he would need to make at Arsenal to cover differences in taxes.
  4. If Wenger is after Khedira, Mourinho bought Khedira, and Löw won a World Cup with Khedira, he must be good but man his stats sure don’t show it and they don’t show him to be a defensive midfielder.

The Agent

Agents talk. Agents also get fired. Agents also talk to the pubic in order to get their clients better deals. There are myriad reasons why agents make statements and after the Suarez debacle¹, the one thing that I have learned in player negotiations is that there are lies, damn lies, and there are agents©.

I was talking to Arseblog yesterday and I asked him if I should go ahead with this by the numbers piece I have which compares 10 different defensive midfielders and comes to the conclusion that one of them is the best fit for Arsenal. I asked him, because I didn’t include Khedira in the article. Who, in their right mind, would include Khedira in a statistically driven article on defensive midfielders? He didn’t do that job for Real Madrid nor for Germany. Not in any way that makes sense. Anyway, Blogs said that he felt strongly Arsenal really were after Khedira and today in his post he revealed why he is so sure, Rafael Honigstein.

It looks like, for all intents and purposes, Arsenal have made contacts with the player and with the club. They have “felt out” the deal and it looks like the deal is that Real Madrid want £20m and Khedira wants £7.8m a year. It is possible, by the way, for the agent to be bypassed in all this. Agents do get fired.

The salary

Meanwhile, the press are all reporting that Khedira is currently on just £50k a week and wants a topping up to £150k a week to join Arsenal. I’m not sure where they got the £50k a week number because we know exactly how much money Khedira is making and it’s closer to £100k a week.

I know what Marca reported when he first signed with the club and maybe that was his salary in 2010. Maybe it was his take home salary? You know, his after tax salary? Maybe he was given a signing bonus early on and a smaller salary to start? Who knows how his deal was structured. But despite those early reports, we know for a fact that Khedira earned €5m last season because FIFA had to pay his salary to Real Madrid when he was injured last year. And if you look at the language in FIFA’s compensation insurance document they only pay the player’s base salary.

We also know that since he negotiated his current contract in 2010 he is only paying a 25% tax rate. That means that he is taking home around €75k a week right now. His new contract at Real Madrid would take him to the current Spanish tax level which is over 50% and if he moved to England he would pay a similar tax rate. He is also now a World Cup winner and this is almost certainly his last professional contract (unless he can get a sweet retirement deal here in America). Is it any surprise that he’s asking for more money? Not to me.

But like Arseblog, I’m not sure that his salary demands are the problem. I’m almost entirely sure that the £20m compensation Real Madrid are asking for is the problem. That is a huge sum for a player in the last year of his contract, especially one who is just recovering from ACL surgery. If Arsenal were to pay that sum, it would push his entire contract over £50m. That severely limits Wenger’s ability to improve the squad over the next four years.

The stats

I’ve looked at Khedira’s stats compared to other defensive midfielders, I’ve looked at his individual games, and I’ve looked at his numbers compared to other players on his team (thus eliminating the “possession adjustment” problem) and the fact is that Khedira was never really deployed as a DM at Real Madrid or Stuttgart.

At Stuttgart Khedira played with a host of players in midfield and ended the season tied for 12th place in tackles per game, and 7th in interceptions per game. He was also a sub 80% passer of the ball, was third on the team in Key Passes (behind Hleb) and led the team in assists. He was also second in through balls and hit half as many long balls as his midfield partner Hitzlsperger.  These numbers indicate a player playing box-to-box midfield, not defensive midfield.

And when he makes to the move to Real Madrid, you see a similar pattern: he’s being deployed next to Alonso or Diarra who are both tackling like madmen! He’s not bad defensively and as we would expect to see from a Mourinho player he tackles plenty (1.9 per game) and intercepts a fairly good number (2.1). The reality is that he played second fiddle to Alonso and there is no shame in that. None.

Can he make the jump over to Arsenal? Of course he could. He’s big and mobile and can play in many positions. I can see Arsene playing a double-pivot with Ramsey and Khedira at the back, similar to the way that he played Vieira and Petit. Though it would have to be a much more modern incarnation of that pairing.

I can see Khedira playing slightly more actual defensive midfield with Ramsey more freely roaming. I can see Arteta playing deep against slow teams and Khedira giving Ramsey a breather in the box-to-box role. I can see him playing a lot of different places. The point is that Khedira’s strength is in his flexibility and team-orientated attitude and he would fit right in at Arsenal.

So, let’s sign him up. Plenty of work still to do in that regard and just over a week before the first pre-season friendly. Got to get cracking, Arsene!

Qq

¹In case you had forgotten or in case you want to relive that PTSD moment over again, let’s remind ourselves that Suarez’ people came to Arsenal and told them that he had a £40m release clause. Did he have one? Was it just a verbal clause? Was the clause’s intent misunderstood by Suarez’ people? Did they do that intentionally? Did Liverpool basically say “sue me”? Did the PFA collude with Liverpool to say that the clause wasn’t as iron-clad as Suarez’ agents thought? Are Liverpool going to finish in the top 10 this season?