From the outside, I know exactly what it must seem like has happened with Nicklas Bendtner and Nottingham Forest. A player, with a terrible track record of attitude problems and overstated ability, has found another club, and no surprise, he has failed. He probably didn’t get on well with his teammates, thought he was too good for the Championship and put barely half a shift in on the pitch, right? Ask any of your mates who are Forest fans and the likelihood is they’ll tell you something along the same lines.
Well, I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong. Those who have watched Bendtner carefully, and considered him in the context of the shambolic management of the club and the team around him have no trouble realising that Forest have just allowed a good player to be pushed out by fans who just needed someone to blame in yet another backwards season.
To the fans who say they are glad he’s gone, and what a terrible player he was, I simply ask: wasn’t every player underperforming under Phillippe Montanier?
The answer is a resounding “Oui”.
The Frenchman was arguably the worst manager Forest have had to date under the ownership of Fawaz Al Hasawi. A 30% win rate and 50% losing ratio is worse than that of Stuart Pearce. The absence of a game plan and organisation meant not one of his games in charge truly established a feeling of confidence in the team. A lovely man nonetheless, but utterly useless in English football.
“Bar two exceptions, Bendtner can hardly be set apart as worse than any other Forest player this season”
So, of course, the players looked poor with him as manager. The only exception to the rule would be that of Ben Osborn, who has always been solid and doesn’t seem to ‘do’ form, with the academy product never in a notably better spell than usual and especially never enduring a bad run.
Then there’s Britt Assombalonga. The striker still struggled to hit good form under Montanier, but kept coming up with goals. He will naturally score more than Bendtner. Firstly, for the simple reason that he’s a better player and more used to the Championship. More importantly, his style also seems perfect for a terrible side that can’t create chances. This was evidenced during Stuart Pearce’s spell in the dugout, where Assombalonga remained somewhat prolific despite the team’s poor form. This was all thanks to his instinctive ability to stab home goals from chances that literally no one else in the stadium can spot.
Bar these two exceptions, Bendtner can hardly be set apart as worse than any other Forest player this season. For me, when he played he often looked stronger than other Championship players, won most of his aerial battles and showed a good quality of passing to try and help his teammates join the attack. We even saw him regularly drop deeper to get the ball and send other Forest players forward. Hardly the sign of a manager who has no trouble making his team work naturally, is it?
There is, of course, the issue of his goals for Forest. A meagre two is a slim return for his time here. He was given only seven starts in the line-up, but still, just two goals.
Again, to those who highlight this, I would point out the hugely difficult circumstances in which the striker was asked to score goals for the team. Bendtner’s style relies on having good players playing well and managed well around him. Undoubtedly, there was quality in the centre of midfield with the likes of Henri Lansbury and David Vaughan, and we saw these players regularly exchange passes with the Danish striker. This not how Bendtner would get his goals. He doesn’t run in behind; he needs wingers to help him play.
“His reputation and all the questions over his ability when he came in meant that the moment something started to go wrong, he would not be able to come back from it”
Bendtner likes to put his back to goal, receive a pass and play the ball out to the wing, where he then runs into the box as the wide man plays a cross in for him to head home. The only problem is, Forest didn’t play with wingers! They shipped Jamie Ward off to Burton at the start of the season and brought in two terrible players from Portugal (Lica) and Serie B (Dumitru) to replace him. It wasn’t long before they were dropped and the only width was coming from a wingback system.
I find it bizarre that fans would be so quick to condemn a player, before considering if the management style that they also heavily slate might be to blame.
Of all modern-day footballers, Bendtner is undoubtedly up there with one of the worst behavioural records in the sport. Do not be tricked into thinking this was behind his downfall at Forest, however. His reputation and all the questions over his ability when he came in meant that the moment something started to go wrong, he would not be able to come back from it. He was a ready-made scapegoat and an easy target when things inevitably went belly up again at Forest.
Had he chosen a better run club, with a manager that knew better what he was doing, Bendtner could have proved that he has that ability to succeed comfortably at Championship level. Instead, he was left hopeless by what has become a farcical football club.
If Gary Brazil didn’t want him now that he has Zach Clough and Ben Brereton, then fine; they both look top quality. It’s just a shame that most people see Bendtner’s departure as his own individual fault. He came in with many condemning him to failure before he had even kicked a ball. In fact, it’s more a story of how a striker was totally starved of the management and service he needed on the pitch to show what he could do.
Also, I blimmin got a shirt with his name on the back, didn’t I?