Hybrid option Nicklas Bendtner can present a new dimension to Arsenal’s attack

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).

30 thoughts on “Hybrid option Nicklas Bendtner can present a new dimension to Arsenal’s attack

  1. when Bendtner comes back the prem is arsenal,bendtner is one of the best strikers in the world for hes age, hes hould up play is like ibrahimovic and the way he playes he can be better then him not skill wise but goals wise.

  2. Well, now, Thanks a lot for exposing the architecture of our team play to the rest of our rivals (assuming your assessment is correct). If Arsenal do not win the league, our Lawyers must remember to serve you. Lol!

  3. brilliant explanation. Shows just how versatile the 4-3-3 is when used by a team that can play total footie ( imo only us and Barca are capable of that currently at club level).

  4. totally not convinced that you can support your claim that Bendtner will undoubtedly be even better than Ibrahimoviv in time.

    Whether or not the Ibrahimovic deal by Barca was the oworst of the season in value terms, he is a olng way in front at the moment and no certainty about progress to that degree. I believe he has potential but how much you can only wait and see

  5. One small point about the main forward; while Arshavin’s tendencies are to drop short and van Persie’s where; the latter has added more balance to his game and is more about roaming than necessarily dropping short. He’s got a bit more freedom to move across as well as deeper, hence why Wenger may say it’s a 4-1-4-1 and the others play around him.

    1. That is very true. You could always see RVP pulling off the CBs, constantly trying to drag them out of position and create space. Van Persie seems to be a more natural false 9 than Arshavin.
      The present day strikers can choose to move two ways. He can either move front and hold the ball(Target Man) or move back, making him a false nine. The point I am trying to make is that Bendtner can do both. He may not be perfect at doing the job but will certainly improve with more games.

      1. Sure, you’re right about Bendtner. That’s why I also believe he’ll make a big difference. The comparison was mainly with RVP and Arshavin and for that reason, Wenger needs a better presence up front.

  6. 0nly if he can be faster in decision making wen encouter the sharp knives defenders like Vidic and by trying long range shorts like fenando Torres, Eto and Roney does

    1. yeah but it sometimes is annoying to see the tallest guy on the pitch put in a cross 😉

      Great article, making me really look forward to his comeback!

  7. Let’s hope he comes back and progresses.

    A shame he was injured as he was just starting to add consistency to his game. He is an excellent aerial outlet and is good also with ball at feet.

    Will wenger instantly reinstall him as the centre of a front 3 though. Most of this season when he’s playes he’s been on the right of front 3. I can’t actually remember a game where he’s started in the centre. Although I supoose the front 3 do interchange.

  8. A bit unfair to RVP. He loves to drop off the defenders — and his unbelievable touch and passing ability make him so good at it. But if defenders start anticipating that, he also spins and runs the channels extremely well. He does score goals aftern all.

    As for Bendtner, this talk of him being one of the best for his age is a bit premature. I like our chances with him and love the analysis of his game, but let’s see how he delivers.

    1. You are right about RVP. At first he was running too much and couldn’t score too many goals. Later after reviewing his game with Le Boss, he balanced his play quite well and started scoring goals. He is a more natural ‘false 9’ as compared to Arshavin. Even Brain made the same point regarding RVP’s movement. RVP has scored so many goals by making runs through the channels.
      I can understand that bigging up Bendtner is a bit premature. I just wanted to do an analysis on the differences between false 9, Targets Man and Hybrid Striker. In our squad Bendtner is the closest to the Hybrid Striker(you can argue that RVP is a hybrid striker, but I thought he was more of a false 9) so I did an analysis of his game. Hope you enjoyed it and Thank you everyone for commenting.

      1. KV– excellent analysis: interesting and it got the discussion going. Fingers crossed that Nikki B comes back soon and does the job.

  9. Nice article man. Before Bendtner was injured he played at the right and did pretty well.The front three should be inter-changable during the game, in my opinion, every front man we have is capable of playing as false 9. (THE REAL B-52 BOMBER) btw i have seen him dribble really good before, vs WBA away last season.

  10. As usual a player who is absent for a long time becomes world class during his injury sideline.

    We had the same with eduardo. Everyone was saying the best finisher in the worls, he’ll come back and lash 30 goals. Look at him now: still good link up play but his finishing is what has totally diminished,

    Bendtner was doing ok before injury, he started the season as 1st team regular largely due to no rosicky, nasri or walcott. Once rosicky got fully fit he didn’t really get in the side and was only employed on the right.

    If everyones fit he’s a squad player nothing more

  11. A relevant quote by Arsene Wenger:
    “Still we used to say the midfielders are the guys who bring the strikers alive but what is happening now is the strikers are the guys who can bring your midfielders alive. They come to score from deeper positions and you can really do that with one-man up front.”

    Wenger admits that, to him, a striker’s assists tally is now as important as his goals ratio.

    “It is basically the efficiency of the team and the number of goals the team scores [that is important],” he said. “I believe if the whole side scores goals then, for me, the striker is good.

    “[For example] Robin Van Persie, when he played we always scored three or four goals. He didn’t score too many [himself] but he made a lot. Not only with passing, but with movement and the quality of that movement. Strikers open walls for the deeper players. That is a big part in the modern game.”

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