Mackems new boy Nicklas Bendtner drew another blank in last night's limp defeat at Norwich. But is Steve Bruce deploying a hapless system that even ex-Arsenal team-mate Robin van Persie would struggle in?
In the past few seasons a long list of top-class strikers has graced the Stadium of Light. From the lightening quick (and inconsistent) Djibril Cisse of the Roy Keane-era to Steve Bruce’s lost trilogy of Kenwyne Jones, Darren Bent, and Asamoah Gyan.
Throw in the on-loan Danny Welbeck and Sunderland fans have seen some talented strikers in recent years - not withstanding the problem that Jones, Bent, and Gyan clearly didn’t want to be at the club in their final months on Wearside.
So is ex-Arsenal man Nicklas Bendtner the man to fill that gap? At the moment it’s hard to say given the absolute dearth of service. No one, players included, seems quite sure if we’re playing 4-5-1 or 4-4-2. Add to that the lack of a left-winger (or left-back) which leaves us totally imbalanced and it’s hardly surprising that we’re struggling. This lack of shape, guile, and width means that whichever striker plays is going to feed off scraps. Last night Bendtner received possession in decent areas on only two or three occasions. One of those was an awkward ball from Sessegnon, driven at the Dane, which he controlled neatly and forced a save out of the keeper.
This lack of shape, guile, and width means that whichever striker plays is going to feed off scraps.
Another was wide-right when he set up Craig Gardner for a curling effort which looped over the bar. And that was it other than a chance sniffed out from a Canaries mistake which was smartly saved by Ruddy. Hands up I was watching on TV so it’s tough to comment on Bendtner’s general work rate but in the final third Sunderland’s play lacked the confidence and commitment needed to work the ball into their lone striker in dangerous areas.
Sessegnon played high up the park at times but his contribution was limited to hopeless shots sailing over the bar. As I’ve written before he’s a man who needs to start delivering goals and assists. For all the fancy feet that still hasn’t happened in a red and white shirt. Bendtner has the talent and belief to be as successful as some of Sunderland more recent strikers. This is a man who, after all, scored 10 out of 9 in a psychologist’s confidence test while at the Emirates. He’s not short on self-belief.
Neither is he short on talent, his goals to minutes ratio at Arsenal indicates a player capable of 15-20 goals per season. Most decent judges also recognise that this is a player with excellent technique and underrated aerial ability (alongside sometime erratic finishing). However, what he is short of is service.
Sunderland’s stuttering supply lines are Bendtner’s biggest problem. The Dane was often compared unfavourably to Robin Van Persie while at Arsenal but even RVP would struggle on the current rations at Sunderland. If that can be fixed, Bendtner will be a hit at the Stadium of Light. Worryingly, from the evidence of the season to date, that’s a big if.
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