Nicklas Bendtner: Is He the Man to Lead Juventus' Front Line?
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Last season was a tremendous achievement for Juventus. After two years in the wilderness as the effects of their alleged involvement in the Calciopoli scandal finally caught up with them, new manager Antonio Conte made some shrewd transfer moves and exemplary tactical decisions to lead them to an unbeaten season and a 27th official Serie A title.
Despite this thrilling return to glory, pundits and fans—both pro-Juve and anti-Juve—agreed on one glaring flaw in the team: the utter lack of a dominant, reliable scorer to lead their front line.
Last year, the Bianconeri scored 75 goals in all competitions, but those 75 goals were distributed among 20 players. Alessandro Matri was the top scorer in the league and joint top scorer overall with 10 goals.
Going into their first Champions League campaign since 2009-10, Conte, president Andrea Agnelli and general director Beppe Marotta had tried multiple avenues to address the issue of getting a lead striker. But they swung and missed in attempts to acquire Napoli's Edinson Cavani, Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic, Athletico Madrid's Fernando Llorente and Manchester United (now Fulham's) Dimitar Berbatov.
The problem was thrown into even starker relief after their Serie A opener this past Saturday. It was an efficient 2-0 victory over Parma, but the Turin giants' goalscorers were a defender (Stephan Liechtstiener) and a midfielder (Andrea Pirlo). While newly reacquired Sebastian Giovinco was feisty and threatening against his former team, he's best as a second striker and will now be out for several weeks with an ankle injury.
Angelli, Marotta and Conte have now finally found a striker they have been able to get their hands on: erstwhile Arsenal man Nicklas Bendtner, who as of Wednesday was reported to Turin for a physical. Marotta has confirmed that if he passes the physical, he will join the club, although it is yet unclear whether it will be on a full transfer or a loan with an option to buy.
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But has Juve found the man who can take them to the next level and make them a legitimate threat against the top teams in the Champions League or are they settling for what they can get at this point in the transfer market?
Bendtner has always been a talented forward, but injuries and a bad attitude have held him back in recent years. He spent last year on loan at Sunderland, where he scored only eight goals in 28 league matches along with five assists.
Interest in him was renewed over the summer when he performed well for Denmark in Euro 2012, scoring a brace in Denmark's eventual 3-2 defeat against Portugal and playing well in the two other group matches as the Danes played the tournament's Group of Death much, much tougher than anyone expected.
In the end, whether this move is a good one or not depends on its nature. If it's a loan with an option, the Turin giants can take a flier on Bendtner finally making himself into one of Europe's best strikers while not losing too much in the long run. A full transfer would likely be premature, and would be the next in a long line of knee-jerk transfers made in the wake of a good individual performance at an international tournament.
One way or the other, Juve cannot continue to develop the reputation of a team with a transcendent midfield that provides a massive amount of chances that their forwards can't convert. They are counting on Bendtner to regain his best form and make their front line as lethal as their midfield and defense have shown to be.
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