Arsenal's fluid machine makes rotation easier

Posted by Andrew Mangan

It's a measure of the quality of Arsenal's squad that they can make five changes from the team that beat Cardiff and confidently swat away a Hull City side that arrived buoyed from a great win over Liverpool.

There was a time when so many changes would have affected their performance in a negative way. One moment they'd be cruising the footballing highway very nicely, the next they'd be driving like there's a wasp in the car. That's no longer the case.

- Report: Arsenal 2-0 Hull City
- Report: Wenger: I always believed in Bendtner

It also used to be the case that the Gunners needed everyone to play well to get results. As the weekend win in Wales showed, they can do it when the likes of Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla don't play anywhere near as well as we know they can. The Frenchman looked fatigued; there was no lack of effort, but heavy legs rarely make for good performances. Cazorla is still trying to find the form of last season when he was Arsenal's most consistent attacking player.

Yet they still ran out 3-0 winners thanks to the free-scoring Aaron Ramsey and the subtle genius of Mesut Ozil. When others fail to fire, their teammates are there to pick up the slack.

It's why Arsene Wenger will have felt reasonably confident about starting Nicklas Bendtner on Wednesday night. The Dane's problems have, for the most part, been his behaviour and attitude rather than his footballing ability.

Sure, he's had his clumsy moments -- that night in the Nou Camp lingers long in the memory -- but as the Arsenal manager said, "We know that when he has the mind of the game, he has the qualities. Look, we had him as a boy of 15 or 16 and I made him sign a long contract twice so that means I always believed in his qualities."

That every other manager he's worked under has failed to fully harness the talent at the expense of Bendtner's somewhat difficult personality suggests the problem is -- or at least has been -- chronic. However, Wenger still sees something in him, even if using him right now is a matter of expediency.

Giroud had to be rested ahead of a week of increasingly difficult fixtures, and those suggesting Theo Walcott should have been given the nod were disappointed -- not because Wenger didn't want to, but because the England man had been suffering from illness. So, it was something of a gamble to go with Bendtner, and it was one that paid off.

The best thing that could possibly have happened was that early goal. It instilled the player with belief, it meant the crowd could watch a man who had made a positive contribution rather than grow agitated at a man who had not, and we've seen all season long how confidence plays a part in performances (see one A. Ramsey).

Overall, considering the circumstances, Bendtner's all-round display was good. He might have scored another -- he set up Ozil with the kind of cross he'd have loved himself -- and his contribution went further than playing a part in another three points. By allowing Wenger to rest Giroud for the games against Everton, Napoli and Man City next weekend, he's increased his team's chances of getting something from those games.

The return of Lukas Podolski will probably see Bendtner's chances limited, but he admitted afterward that it's almost easier to come into a team playing as well as this current Arsenal one.

"This way we play now, it looks like everyone who comes in takes it in his stride and goes with it," he said. "There were some changes but everyone did really well."

It's doubtful there's a long-term future for Bendtner at the club, and he's still got a lot to prove to fans, and himself, after a miserable couple of years in his career, but he gave a small reminder against Hull that he's capable of scoring goals and adding some depth to the Arsenal squad.


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