Karthik (KV) explains how Nicklas Bendtner can bring back a much-needed presence to the Arsenal attack following the injury to Robin van Persie.
“I want to be top scorer in the Premier League, top scorer at the World Cup and, within five years, I want to be among the best strikers in the world” were the lofty aims set by a giant striker at the beginning of the season. Nicklas Bendtner was on course to maturing into a top class hybrid striker before injury stopped his progress. Now with Robin van Persie injured, Arshavin has taken the ‘false 9’ role that the Dutchman made his very own, with mixed results. In this article, I will try to explore how Arsenal’s style of play can be impacted with the return of Nicklas Bendtner.
The return of the deadly Dane will add a new dimension to the team. It will influence everyone, even the goal keeper. Almunia will have an added option of “hoofing” the ball high up to either hold the ball or take it and attack. It allows the defenders and of course the midfielders to think differently.
In my previous article, I highlighted the use of our ‘strikerless’ system, where van Persie was the focal point. Due to the movement and the interchangeability provided by the 4-3-3 formation, we were able to thump most of the teams which came in our way. This is how our 4-3-3 strikerless formation works with van Persie as the false 9, against other teams who mostly line up in a 4-2-3-1.
The main purpose of this formation is to outnumber the two defensive midfielders by letting van Persie drop deep. He takes position with the deeper lying Central Midfieler as reference, i.e. he positions himself in between the CBs and the Defensive midfielder. This allows exchange of passes with pass master Cesc and puts the wingers, primarily Arshavin in goalscoring positions. All of a sudden the two double pivots are in an island surrounded by Arsenal players. They can pass around the double pivots without trouble.
Note that in the diagram, the wingers are positioned as decoys to keep the full-backs involved. In the absence of van Persie, Arshavin has taken the main forward position and has added his own tricks to the role.
What does Nicklas Bendtner bring to this role?
Before I begin, I would like you all to rewind a bit to the first goal we scored at the Merseyside few months back. At the heart of the move was Nicklas Bendtner who emphatically took out Leyton Baines and then passed it in. Later in the 6-2 mauling of Blackburn, he finished the rout by scoring a long ranger. Against Dynamo Kiev, he finished of a long over the top through ball from Fabregas. These goals highlight his versatility, adaptability and flexibility.
He has the technical ability, vision, passing and above all a sizeable frame to improve upon the job done by van Persie and Arshavin. The advantage with Bendtner is that, he can play as a ‘false 9’ or as an out and out striker. He is sure to win headers and he can also hold the ball up. In the graphic before, I explained how van Persie moves deeper to create confusion. But Bendtner can also move the opposite way without any trouble. He was employed in the wings to add dynamism in the first few matches of this season and to pose smaller full backs with an altogether different proposition because of his height. His dribbling skills and close control will help him succeed in the forward role while Sagna and Clichy (the left back in general) can also put in accurate crosses in the box for Nicklas to head in.
On the whole, Nicklas Bendtner presents a new dimension to the team and we will have more chances of scoring goals. In the coming decade, hybrid strikers like Bendtner, Ibrahimovic and Berbatov will often be called upon to spearhead the attack as they possess something of all the qualities required to lead the line. Their introduction will spell the end for specialist roles. The young Nicklas may not exactly be as good as Ibrahimovic, but he can certainly be even better with more games in that role.
“For me, a striker is not just a striker,” says Jose Mourinho. “He’s somebody who has to move, who has to cross, and who has to do this in a 4-4-2 or in a 4-3-3 or in a 3-5-2.” The hybrid Dane certainly fits the description.
Tuesday: Analysing Arsenal’s defensive game (I know I promised it two weeks ago but…boo hoo).