All does not appear to be well at Sunderland. The shock departure of Asamoah Gyan this week rounded off what has been a horrible first few weeks for Steve Bruce and all involved at the Stadium of Light. This has included a horrible loss to rivals Newcastle and a worrying impotence in front of goal. However salvation may be on its way from an unlikely source.
Nicklas Bendtner is not a man that lacks confidence. The big Danish striker fully believes that he has the talent to make it to the very top of the game whilst it is safe to say that the rest of us still remain to be convinced of this. What there is little doubt about is that this season is a huge opportunity for the striker and the shock departure of Gyan only makes this more so.
Bendtner has been critical of the way that he has been treated at Arsenal over the last couple of seasons. He believes that he has not been given a chance to really prove himself, especially since he was injured in a car crash towards the end of 2009. Despite this apparent lack of chances over the past two seasons Bendtner has made 63 appearances for Arsenal scoring 21 goals — a pretty handy return for someone who makes the majority of his contributions from the substitute’s bench.
However, this season will tell us a lot about where the striker’s career will go in the next few years. Since the departure of Gyan for the desert, Bendtner is going to, for the first time in England, be expected to lead the line and be the focal point of a team’s attack for the whole of the campaign, a task that has led to many players before him buckling under the pressure. Add in the fact that Sunderland have only scored two league goals in their first four games and the task becomes even more daunting.
There is evidence that Bendtner will deliver though. As well as his good strike rate at Arsenal, he has scored goals in international football including a brace against Norway in the latest round of fixtures. He should also settle well into Sunderland having already worked alongside Steve Bruce at Birmingham in their promotion season.
The Mackems are also a team that create chances. They could and probably should have beaten both Newcastle and Swansea if they had had a natural goalscorer and not a luxury player in Gyan. Stephane Sessegnon has looked lively and the set pieces of Seb Larsson will create plenty of opportunities as well.
If Bendtner can prove himself to be that reliable goal-getter then Sunderland will be a team capable of challenging for another top half finish. If he does not then it is looking like being a long season for Sunderland’s fans and possibly a shortened one for Steve Bruce judging by some of the rumblings coming from the club.
On a personal level, should he succeed this season Bendtner will have taken a huge step towards proving that he was right to state that he could be amongst the world’s best. Fail and he will become another player remembered more for what he said than what he did on the pitch.