By Declan Taylor
Despite admitting that fans want to see “the finished article”, Arsène Wenger believes that Nicklas Bendtner is a work in progress.
After spending much of 2007/08 on the fringes of the first team, Bendtner has emerged as a valuable component of the Arsenal attack this season.
Within nine minutes of emerging from the bench against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, the Dane had notched the Gunners’ crucial winning goal. In fact, he had almost scored with his first touch but saw a towering back-post header well saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Speaking after the game, Wenger reiterated his belief in the young forward but acknowledged that there is still a long way to go until Bendtner reaches his peak.
"The fans judge on the game but the manager has to consider what he can display in one year,” said the manager. “Today they wanted to see the finished article - that is normal.
"He has spoken to me and he knows I have full confidence in him and people are sometimes surprised that I stick with him. But I believe in him. I think he has today scored a very important goal and it is not the first time.”
Bendtner scored nine times in 40 appearances last season but he is well on the way to surpassing that tally this time around. Saturday’s 84th-minute strike was his seventh goal in 24 appearances so far in 2008/09 and his manager thinks it is down to the Dane’s understanding of the game, and not his fluorescent footwear.
"He can be decisive,” said Wenger. “For me when a striker is in the air, on the move for a set-piece, he understands football. You see the first header he missed he attacked the ball well and was on the move. For the goal he scored he was on the move at the moment he scored. So you can say this guy is a striker and has a chance. He is 20 years old, 21 this month, but it is very young.
"I am not convinced by them [the pink boots]. But If he wears the boots and puts the ball in the net I do not mind."Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 12 Jan 2009