Arsenal trashed Porto 5-0 at the Emirates on Tuesday, 6-2 on aggregate, to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. The Gunners came back from a 2-1 deficit and showed much more spirit than they did in Portugal, with the likes of Almunia and Song back in the side.
I am very skeptical about Manuel Almunia, but at least he didn’t pull any gaffes - I’m looking at you Fabianski. The highlight of the game however, was Nicklas Bendtner’s hattrick, which happened to be the first of his career. It was a great achievement for the Dane, especially after a horrid and somewhat unlucky performance against Burnley during the weekend.
Bendtner missed so many “easy” tap-ins from a few yards out that it became almost comical, even the striker could not help but grin despite his frustration. Critics raged from all sides, questioning his abilities and Arsène Wenger’s trust in him. It took Bendtner only 3 days to prove them wrong giving the best answer possible…3 goals.
The 22-year old displayed strong confidence by shrugging off what had been said about him, keeping a cool head in front of goal and even netting a 90th minute penalty to seal the victory.
His goals were not that spectacular, however the fact that he is now actually scoring them is very promising and I have to say, a relief. What many overlooked in his performance against Burnley is how Bendtner managed to constantly be at the right place at the right time and although he was not able to get the finishing touch, his positioning was still quite remarkable.
The one thing you want of your young players is for them to progress and learn from their mistakes. This was the second match in a row where an Arsenal youngster managed to do just that. Following England’s international friendly against Egypt, critics were saying that Theo Walcott was not improving. His response? Man of the match and a goal against Burnley, which shows the Gunners, one of the youngest sides in Europe, have a great future ahead of them.
I believe Bendtner is an easy target for criticism in the Arsenal squad as he seems almost clumsy next to technical players like Arshavin and Fabregas. I still think that he has the potential to become a great player and a leading goal-scorer for Arsenal. The Big Dane also offers much needed height in the box that Arshavin would not be able to match even with his arms up (5 ft 7 against Bendtner’s 6 ft 4).
As long as he doesn’t pull anything like THIS again…he’ll be just fine.