Arsene Wenger admits he was surprised to see Nicklas Bendtner sign for Nottingham Forest and says the former Arsenal striker has a point to prove if he faces the Gunners in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night.
Bendtner, 28, spent nine years at Arsenal but was unable to ever hold down a regular place in Wenger’s side before signing for Wolfsburg in 2014.
The Denmark international scored just twice in his final full season at the Emirates Stadium either side of loan spells at Sunderland and Juventus.
When he first came through the ranks with Arsenal a lot was expected but a perceived bad attitude, as well as the plethora of attacking talent he was contending with for a first-team spot, meant he never fulfilled his potential with the Gunners.
After two years in Germany, Bendtner is back and playing in the Sky Bet Championship for Forest, who welcome Wenger’s side to the City Ground for their third-round EFL Cup tie on Tuesday.
And Wenger believes it was the lure of guaranteed football that saw the forward move to the East Midlands.
“It was a surprise to me that Nicklas signed for Nottingham Forest, but at some stage Nicklas needs to restart his career,” he said.
“You have to adapt and we are in a job when we have to show we are able to put our effort in everywhere and compete.
“Sometimes when you are a player of his quality, you just need an opportunity. We know his qualities and he is a top-quality player, but he needs to play.”
Bendtner has made just two substitute appearances so far for Philippe Montanier’s side but has said he would celebrate against his former club if he were to score.
Wenger feels Bendtner will go out with a point to prove and knows he can succeed in the Championship having shone in the division during a loan spell at Birmingham early in his career.
“Of course he has a point to prove,” he added.
“He’s playing at a level where he is not used to. But he did start his career at this level at Birmingham City with Steve Bruce, where he did very well. Nicklas is humble enough and focused enough to show he can fight again.”
Wenger also defended his former charge, insisting the striker was merely disappointed not to get as many chances as he would have liked at Arsenal having been with the club from a young age.
Asked whether he felt Bendtner was misunderstood, Wenger replied: “Yes, the perceptions people have of him is that he is overconfident, but I don’t think so.
“He was sometimes impatient when he was with us. Sometimes he was disappointed not to get the chance and you can understand that. It is difficult – I am not here to judge people.
“Sometimes you manage to get it, and sometimes we do not find the key. Then you have to leave the key to someone else who has the potential to find it.
“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.”
If Bendtner does play, he could come up against Gabriel, after Wenger revealed the Brazil defender could make his first appearance of the season after overcoming an ankle injury.
The game comes too early for both Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey, who are nursing toe and hamstring problems respectively, and Wenger is likely to give his fringe players and young talent a chance to shine in the EFL Cup as he has done in previous years.