In-form Bendtner still has uncertain future at Sunderland

Nicklas Bendtner was supposed to be a superstar by now. A prodigy, Denmark’s Under-17 Player of the Year in 2004, the year he signed for Arsenal, made his debut for both the U-21 and senior side at 18. He has no shortage of self-belief. In a psychometric test conducted by the club, he achieved a score of 10 in a category entitled ‘self perceived competence’, where the highest possible mark was ordinarily a 9. Unfortunately, his potential has yet to be fulfilled, as his playing career lags behind his colourful private life.

At 6ft 4ins, he is tall and powerfully built, good in the air with great upper body strength and good positional awareness. His link up play is good and he drifts in to wide areas to great effect. Due to his size, a turn of pace is lacking. He also struggles with consistency and tends to snatch at chances. By far his biggest impediment though is the sizeable chip on his shoulder. It has proven to be an attribute that has made him unpopular with managers and teammates alike, while proving to be the biggest hindrance to his career progression thus far.

A Zlatan Ibrahimovic-sized ego is tolerated if you produce Zlatan Ibrahimovic-calibre performances, otherwise patience tends to wear thin very quickly. Now 24, Bendtner needs to exhibit greater maturity and shoulder greater responsibility if he is to maximise his undoubted talents. He has been unfortunate at Sunderland in that Steve Bruce, who had previously managed him at Birmingham, was sacked in November. After a slow start acclimatising to a new style of play, Bendtner then had to get to grips with Martin O’Neil and his differing methods.

Fortunately, as O’Neil is rather partial to big centre forwards and is a man manager par excellence, there has since been an upturn in Bendtner’s subsequent performances, including five goals in five league games in March. Despite a rich vein of recent form, his long-term prospects at the club appear remote, as he revealed to Never say never about Sunderland, but it is not certain that I will be here if the opportunity arises.” Exhibiting his trademark humility, it would appear Bendtner has bigger fish to fry, having already burnt his bridges at Arsenal.

With the European Championships fast approaching, Bendtner will be hoping to catch the eye of potential suitors while leading the line for Denmark. In fine recent form for his country, he has netted five times in his last five appearances and appears to thrive in an environment where he is a relatively big fish in a small pond. Drawn in a formidable group featuring the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal, Denmark will be relying on rangy striker to convert the chances fashioned by talented playmaker Christian Eriksen.

Restricted to a cameo appearance in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Fulham, Bendtner will be hoping to start Sunderland’s final game of the current campaign, when Manchester United visit next Sunday. If selected, it is likely that he will line up against Danny Welbeck, a former Sunderland loanee that has since ignited his career, a progression that Bendtner will be looking to emulate next term.

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