Arsenal vs Nottingham Forest: Nicklas Bendtner prepares to face former club
Arsenal play Nottingham Forest tonight in the EFL Cup and for Nicklas Bendtner the match is a golden opportunity to get one over on the Gunners. The 28-year-old Dane became a figure of fun for the Arsenal faithful by the time he left the club in 2014 after nine years at the Emirates.
He'd arrived as a fresh-faced but full-of-himself teenage striker but a series of immature mishaps turned Bendtner into a Danish dunce for many fans. Once fined £80,000 for flashing Paddy Power-sponsored pants after scoring for his country against Portugal, Bendtner also hit the headlines for fighting with teammates, threatening taxi drivers and writing off his £160,000 Aston Martin in a motorway smash.
Arsene Wenger grew increasingly tired of Bendtner's erratic behaviour, loaning him out to Birmingham, Sunderland and Juventus, before finally selling him to German club Wolfsburg. After two mediocre seasons in Germany Bendtner signed a two-year deal with Nottingham Forest earlier this month and now he's relishing the prospect of a fresh start in England. "Now I'm here, loving it and determined to make the most of the rest of my career," he explained. "I've still got plenty of years left... and I want to reboot."
Admitting there are "some things I would like to change on and off the pitch", Bendtner said the car crash made him reassess his life. "I had a massive injury when I crashed the car. For about a year and a half I was kind of injured all the time. That was a big moment in my life. If I hadn’t been wearing a seat belt I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.”
Bendtner didn't help himself during the early years of his career with his extravagant claim that he had the skill to be the best striker in the world, and his aloof attitude earned him the nickname 'The Lord'.
"I don't actually know how that came about," he revealed. "All of a sudden someone said to me 'Do you know that everyone calls you Lord?' It just kicked off from there. I don't think I can actually kill it – a bit like the best striker in the world thing. I don't regret saying that because that's what I wanted to be – which is normal. I was young, but maybe I said it a bit too early!"
Asked if he would say hello to his former manager after tonight's match, Bendtner replied: "I'm sure I will pop in their dressing room afterwards and see a few of the guys and Arsene. He's a great coach. I never had a problem with him."
The feeling is reciprocal with Wenger happy to talk about Bendtner ahead of this evening's clash. "He had it all in the locker," said the Arsenal manager. "I felt that he had good periods in his career, and then periods when it went less well for him. He could explain it better as to how he assesses his career because he is an honest guy. When he makes mistakes, he is big enough to say it is his fault. Sometimes it was not his fault but you felt he had it all in the locker to make a fantastic career."
And the Frenchman shares Bendtner's belief that he could have a renaissance at Nottingham Forest, saying: "Nicklas is humble enough and focused enough to show he can fight again."