Nicklas Bendtner is well known for his self confidence in the Premier League, and has been subject to criticism in the past over his performances. Without a doubt he is a talented player, however he may not be the superstar that he and his father bill him to be.
Nevertheless Nicklas did come up with several important goals during 2009-10 and often had to lead the line on his own for Arsenal, a tough task considering his age.
Denmark used Bendtner as their main striker in the World Cup in South Africa, their preferred formation was 4-2-3-1, meaning he was the solitary front man, a tough task for any young player. Indeed, he didn’t manage to pull them through in the final group game where they lost 3-1 to Japan and missed out on the Second Round.
Denmark First Half 4-2-3-1
That game was won through Japan’s hard work and efficiency with the ball, playing an ultimately defensive game, but getting forward well when they had the chance.
In contrast Denmark looked a little lost after conceding the first goal, and never really got organised. Bendtner failed to impose himself on the game, something noted by many commentators.
Bendtner had scored the opening goal in their previous game in Cameroon, but the main feature of his play for Denmark in the Japan game was his lack of movement, and low work rate, especially in the second half, when the Danes switched to play three strikers up front in a very narrow formation.
Denmark Second Half 4-3-3
The Danish front line waited for high balls into the box from the wings, and though it might seem that Bendtner’s height would allow him a huge advantage over the centre backs Tanaka and Nakazawa it really didn’t. They frequently won headers, and beat Nicklas to the ball.
Another theme was Bendtner dropping deep between the lines to pick up the ball, in the ‘false nine’ style, which Robin Van Persie perfected over the previous two seasons. This did create good passages of play for Denmark in the first half, but as the Japanese played very deep there was no room for the Danish wingers to look for the diagonal pass, or run into space that Bendtner created.
The interchange between the Danish frontline had improved against Cameroon, after Bendtner looked isolated against the Netherlands where the Danes lost 2-0. However the forward three became isolated again in the second half against Japan.
One of the main issues of the game was the lower workrate of the players, Bendtner actually covered very little ground compared to others. He ran 8900m compared to the opposing centre forward Honda who covered over 11000m.
This was a pattern repeated over each match of the group stage, vs Netherlands, Cameroon, and finally Japan.
The end product was lacking from Denmark and Bendtner which is a real contrast in comparison with the match against Cameroon. The deep Japanese defence, and pressing midfield really created problems, and Nicklas obviously struggled with the lack of space available to him.
The same problems have been apparent in the Premier League for Arsenal, Bendtner doesn’t have the best first touch in the Arsenal squad, and so sometimes in tight spaces he struggled.
However, it is clear that Bendtner has talent, and with more experience he will become a very useful striker, this one game was tough for him, but don’t forget about moments like his well taken goal at the Nou Camp last season. He has led the line on his own for both Arsenal and Denmark this season, and for such a young player the experience can only benefit him in the long run.