Arsene Wenger believes Nicklas Bendtner his back on track after the under-fire Arsenal striker sealed a precious 1-0 win over Bolton.
Just five minutes remained at the Emirates stadium on Saturday when Bendtner slid in to convert Robin van Persie’s chipped cross and ensure Arsenal remained just three points behind third-placed Aston Villa in the Premier League table.
The goal capped an eccentric cameo from Bendtner, who had come on as a 75th-minute substitute. The Dane has never been the most popular of figures in north London and he further tested the patience of the Arsenal faithful by missing a straightforward header and producing a string of misplaced passes.
But his adroit late finish thrilled Wenger, who blamed Bendtner’s previous shortcomings on the freezing conditions in north London.
“Nicklas didn’t have the best passing game but he could have scored twice and that is what strikers are all about,” he said.
“But it’s so cold for the subs that when you come on it’s not easy. It takes time to get in the game and he had no time for that as he came on with just 15 minutes to go,” Wenger said.
“It has been difficult this season. He had injury problems with his ankle and it affected his game. But now in training he looks sharp again. He had some difficult periods but now slowly he is getting back to where he needs to be,” he said.
Bendtner will not score a more crucial goal all season. Arsenal had laid siege to the visitors’ goal for virtually the entire afternoon but were continually frustrated, with van Persie hitting a post and Emmanuel Adebayor seeing a goal-bound shot blocked by Andy O’Brien.
A draw would have inflicted another serious dent in the Gunners’ hopes of clinging onto their elite ‘Big Four’ status in the English game - a position which was further threatened earlier in the day by Villa’s win over West Bromwich - but Wenger is refusing to panic.
“I’m not too concerned about that [Villa’s form],” he said. “We are already swimming enough against the stream without dropping points at home against Bolton.”
“I was pleased with the players. We were solid defensively and now we have won three times 1-0 which is a good basis for us,” Wenger said.
Gary Megson, the Bolton manager, was philosophical at seeing his side’s valiant rearguard breached at the last. His greater concerns lie in strengthening a squad so threadbare that he could name just three outfield players on his substitutes’ bench.
His resources were further depleted when Johann Elmander limped off with a hamstring injury while another, Mustapha Riga, reacted angrily to being taken off just 40 minutes after coming on as a substitute.
The midfielder stormed down the tunnel, refusing to even look at his manager.
Also on Saturday it was:
• Aston Villa 2, West Brom 1
• Everton 2, Hull 0
• Middlesbrough 1, Sunderland 1