Aston Villa in Talks with Former Arsenal Striker

Reports have emerged from Birmingham today that Aston Villa are in talks with the former Arsenal centre forward, Nicklas Bendtner, over a free transfer move to Villa Park this summer. The Danish international has been out of contract since being released by the London club at the end of the previous campaign.

Lambert’s move for the troubled 26 year-old will undoubtedly divide Villa fans. Bendtner constitutes one of the many great unfulfilled talents to fall from grace in the Premier League in recent years. He has always been a player of undoubted pedigree and potential, however, difficulties with mentality and dedication appear to have prevented Bendtner from reaching the levels that many in the media and at Arsenal believed that he would when he arrived in London from Kjøbenhavns Boldklub as a seventeen year-old youth prospect.

The Dane is generally employed as a target-man type striker in the same vein as Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak; however, with the Belgium and Czech forwards absent from training with long-term injuries Lambert is determined to bolster his attacking options. The need for Villa to recruit more fire-power up-front has only grown more pressing in the past week since Jordan Bowery departed to Rotherham for an undisclosed fee while another Dane, Nicolas Helenius, looks set for a return move to Aalborg after a disappointing spell in England.

Bendtner is strong in the air and possesses a good first touch. The Dane also has the ability to interchange effectively with support players in the build-up phases of an attack owing to the fact that his physique enables him effectively to hold play up. In this context, Bendtner looks an ideal cut price back-up signing for Benteke; he is a forward in possession of many of the same physical attributes as the Belgium though he lacks Benteke’s technical competency and cutting edge on front of goal.

Should Lambert complete the signing of Bendtner (the Dane has also attracted the interest of Bundesliga outfit, Eintracht Frankfurt) it will be his second spell as a footballer in Birmingham. Bendtner made his initial mark on English football on loan at Villa’s city rival’s, Birmingham City, during their promotion winning campaign from the Championship in the 2007-08 season. The Dane played a prominent role in driving the Blues into the top-flight, netting 11 times in 42 appearances.

The Dane never managed to pin down a place in Wenger’s first XI at the Emirates upon his return to London. The form of luminaries such as Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Robin Van Persie understandably kept the Dane him out of the team and question marks pertaining to his work-ethic and commitment to the task of becoming a starter at Arsenal soon began to emerge.

Underwhelming loan spells at Sunderland and then Juventus followed for Bendtner as Wenger appeared to finally lose faith in a player he had once held such high-hopes for. During these loan periods worrying disciplinary issues arose: Bendtner was frequently spotted in Tyneside night clubs and most disconcertingly the Dane was arrested and cautioned for drunk driving by the Turin police.

Bendtner was a surprise member of Wenger’s 25 man Premier League squad last season. The Dane featured only owing to the fact that Arsenal failed to secure a striker to provide cover for Olivier Giroud. On 1 January 2014, Bendtner scored the winning goal against Cardiff in the 88th minute in a 2–0 Arsenal win, however, this would be the high-point of his season. An altercation involving a Copenhagen taxi during an unsolicited trip to his homeland in March saw Wenger exile Bendtner from the first-team squad for the final three months of the season and instead invest his trust in the young French forward, Yaya Sanogo.

Villa fans can only hope that a change of environment will revitalize Bendtner’s interest in committing himself to playing professional football. Perhaps more pertinently, though, the Villa faithful will have to hope that Bendtner is being signed as cover, and not as a replacement, for Christian Benteke.

Sean Donnelly