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Wenger knew Bendtner would shine
Published : 26 Mar 2010 13:42:31
The Denmark striker is expected to shake off an ankle problem to lead the attack at Birmingham, where he had a loan spell for the 2006/07 season. During that campaign, Bendtner, now 22, netted 13 goals as the Blues secured automatic promotion back to the top flight. Wenger feels the 6ft 3in forward returned from St Andrew's wiser and has since come a long way in a short time. "I saw Nicklas Bendtner in the reserves and he had an impact in the games," the Arsenal manager recalled, "but you felt as well that he needed to go somewhere to toughen up. "There is no better place in the world than the Championship to give a player a realistic view of how hard this job is. "He went there and in fairness to him, he became a regular player straight away - that shows you he has the qualities to survive at the top level." Following the long-term ankle injury to Robin van Persie, who could yet return to play some part before the end of the campaign, Arsenal have looked to Bendtner to provide some presence in attack. The Dane spent three months on the sidelines himself earlier this season after suffering a groin injury during the derby against Tottenham at the end of October 31. However, since his comeback, Bendtner has found some form, smashing a hat-trick in the 5-0 Champions League demolition of Porto while also netting a crucial stoppage-time winner at Hull. Russian Andrey Arshavin has benefited from being pressed into a more advanced role just off the frontman, and believes the combination provides another dimension to Arsenal's game as they chase a first Premier League title since 2004. "Nick creates more space for the players behind him, and that offers us more time and possibilities to do something special," Arshavin said. "He is good in the air - he wins a lot of balls that way and through this we can gain even more possession. "We can play differently with him in the side. "When I am playing centrally we can use only low balls, but with Nick up front we have the opportunity to play higher balls and balls in behind, varying things a bit more. "His goals have been welcome. He is in good form and has shown that he has the instinct for a chance - not that many teams make as many chances as we do." Arshavin, though, feels he could contribute more in front of goal, having missed a couple of efforts in recent games. The Russian said: "Looking at my form, I am happy because we are constantly winning, but additionally I am a little bit frustrated because I have had a few simple chances recently that I should have finished off." Arsenal head into this weekend's fixtures with little margin for error as the race for the Premier League crown has developed into one of the most exciting in recent seasons. With only two points separating the top three, Wenger has challenged his side to fight with everything they have to maintain momentum going into a run of games which could make or break their season - with Barcelona awaiting in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. "We just have to keep the spirit, the hunger, the desire, and the intelligence we have shown until now," the Arsenal manager said. "For a long time we have fixed ourselves targets, that is to play every game like our lives depend on it. "We need to bring consistency to our attitude. "We have a remarkable attitude, we have a remarkable spirit in the team, and we just need to continue like we do." Birmingham v Arsenal. Click here to bet.