When the transfer window started it was generally expected that Juventus would be bringing in a new striker who will add more quality to an attack which often wasted easy scoring chances last season. At different points of the season, Juventus have been linked with proven goal scorers such as Edinson Cavani, Robin van Persie, Stevan Jovetic and Fernando Llorente. Despite making some solid additions to the Juventus squad in the transfer window, Giuseppe Marotta’s abilities to land a big name has once against come under spotlight as Juventus finally failed to rope in the goal scorer they desperately needed. In all fairness, it will be unfair to lay bulk of the blame on Marotta as Juventus board’s strict control over the wage bill means that getting quality players is somewhat a hindrance. Most notably, in the case of Robin van Persie, it was believed that his salary demands were too astronomical for Juventus. Edinson Cavani’s price tag was set unrealistically high by Napoli and the new contract signed by the player ruled out the move. Juventus couldn’t reach an agreement with Athletic Bilbao or Fiorentina regarding other two players, reportedly. Going for Berbatov towards end of transfer window hinted that Marotta was going to make a panic buy and his final panic buy comes in the form of Nicklas Bendtner.
This transfer, in many ways, is baffling. Bendtner has never been a goal scorer of repute. His stats are nothing exceptional. Having joined Arsenal in 2005, he has managed to find the net just 22 times in 99 matches, a poor conversion rate on any scale. His loan stint at Birmingham City was no better as he scored 11 goals in 42 appearances. Having failed to cement a place in Arsenal starting XI, he was once again loaned out to Sunderland last season where he scored 8 goals in the league. Bendtner does have a better record for his national team for whom he has scored 20 goals in 52 appearances. His performance in Euro 2012 was, however, quite encouraging as Denmark looked to pull off an upset at one point and qualify from a group of death.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, Bendtner can act as a target-man. An often talked about reason for his numerous failures has been the fact that he was not used as a center forward much. There were times when he was used on the wings with the likes of van Persie or Adebayor playing as center forward. The Danish striker was never fully suited to this role and at Juventus, at least, he will have more chances of playing as a center-forward. Among the current crop of Juventus strikers, Alessandro Matri is the only proper center forward. Sebastien Giovinco is an out and out advanced winger or support striker, while Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella are support strikers who can slot in as a target-man as a stop gap measure. One of Bendtner’s biggest strengths is his positioning as he often ends up in goal scoring positions. For a big man, his movement is also satisfactory though his aerial dominance is hardly notable.
Below is a comparison of their goal scoring records. Stats are pretty neck and neck. Matri has spent most of his career at small clubs and has really improved in past 3 seasons unlike Bendtner whose career has somewhat digressed after a car crash and an injury that followed the accident. Except Vucinic, none of the other Juventus strikers have had the luxury of playing with quality team mates like the way Bendtner has.
The biggest problem with Nicklas Bendtner is his composure and conversion rate. For a player who often finds himself in goal scoring areas, his scoring rate is extremely poor. Scoring just 22 times despite playing in one of the more attacking sides in the Premier League and being supported up by one of the more creative players in the world in form of Cesc Fabregas, is an extremely ordinary record. In many ways, he is similar to current Juventus strikers who are often guilty of misfiring. His record in the Champions League is also pretty underwhelming despite the fact that he scored 5 goals in 7 matches three seasons back.
Given the lack of experience of Matri, Quagliarella and Giovinco in Champions League, Juventus needed a striker who had a better record in the same tournament and Bendtner doesn’t fulfill that criteria. How he will adjust in Serie A, where strikers get less time and space to score goals will be another concern. Bendtner has notched up a decent number of assists over the years but that attribute is hardly something Juventus need in a striker right now as creating chances is not a problem for the team – converting them is.
Regardless of his scoring record, Nicklas Bendtner has been a player who has always come out as a player who is ambitious and has complete faith in himself. He infamously described himself as one of the best strikers in the world few years back, a statement which has become the butt of many jokes since then.
Guardian wrote about a couple of incidents that describe his self-esteem, which is “off the radar”. In 2010, a psychologist tried to rank Arsenal players based on their self-esteem. The ranking was done between zeros to nines – Bendtner scored a ten. He was also a player who complained bitterly when he was replaced by a striker who had more experience than him in U21 level. Antonio Conte has shown time and again that reputations matter very little to him and he will bench any player who fails to adapt to his system. An ambitious player like Bendtner may not react well if he is benched against his wish. Juve’s unbeaten title win was built on an unshakable spirit and a player throwing tantrums might hamper the dressing room atmosphere at a time when the coach is already fighting off-field battles.
After all, Bendtner is a player who reportedly said the following a few years back, “In about three years, I will be better than Zlatan. He is older than me and has now reached his peak as the top scorer in Serie A – but I have a plan, I believe in it and I am ready… Next season, I can finally make my breakthrough and then I still have two years to become better than Zlatan – and I will. … By then I will be close to my peak and will be able to look upon myself as one of the world’s greatest strikers.”
Nicklas Bendtner is not a player who adds quality to current Juventus attack. In some ways, he has been brought in to add depth for multiple tournaments that Juve will participate in. However, he is still young and Juventus fans will be hoping that Antonio Conte manages to inspire him to fulfill his potential. His reported loan deal also means that the club is not splashing money on him, which may leave the door open for a big name striker to arrive in the winter transfer window.