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Larsson praises Bendtner's impact at Sunderland
WITH Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill expected to make a decision on Nicklas Bendtner's future before the end of the season, Sebastian Larsson has hailed his fellow Scandinavian's impact on the Black Cats squad.
Bendtner's season-long loan from Arsenal is due to expire at the end of the current campaign, and O'Neill must decide whether to make an offer for his services on a permanent basis.
There are a number of considerations to weigh up, not least the £6m that Arsenal would want as a transfer fee and the £70,000-a-week that the Dane is understood to be commanding at the Emirates.
His scoring record over the whole of his loan spell is not that impressive, but a run of four goals in his last five league games have underlined his potential value to a Sunderland squad that is hardly blessed with prolific scorers.
On the pitch, Bendtner has gradually proved his worth, and away from the field of play, Larsson claims the Denmark international has been equally influential.
"He's a good lad," said the Swedish midfielder. "He's the type of guy who gets involved straight away. From the first day he came, he was part of the team.
"I think Nicklas is just a good guy - a fun guy, an ideal guy to have around the training ground and he fits into the dressing room perfectly.
"We've got a really good dressing room. The lads get on very well together and that was important when we did struggle early on in the season, we still enjoyed coming in to work and trying to make things better."
Bendtner's goal in Saturday's 3-3 draw with Manchester City sandwiched a double from Larsson, who ended a run of three months without a goal when he broke the deadlock at the City of Manchester Stadium.
At the start of the campaign, the midfielder's dead-ball prowess made him a potent weapon, with direct free-kicks against Arsenal and Blackburn finding the back of the net.
His last free-kick goal came in the FA Cup third round at Peterborough on January 8, and the former Arsenal trainee feels opposition sides are doing all they can to prevent him getting a dead-ball opportunity anywhere close to the edge of the area.
"I've had team talks where you've mentioned it yourself because the opposition are very strong on set pieces," he explained. "We haven't really seemed to get too many in and around the box.
"I know we had one against Arsenal (in February), which I missed. I think that was the first one in quite a while. Hopefully, we can get a few more chances from free-kicks."
* Roarie Deacon was on target as Sunderland reserves claimed a 1-1 draw at Norwich City yesterday afternoon.
Deacon broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute with a low 20-yard effort that found its way into the bottom corner of the net.
But the Black Cats' lead lasted just five minutes as Richard Brindley claimed a Norwich equaliser with a powerful volley after a corner was not cleared.
Sunderland reserves: Wilson, Marrs, Callaghan (Elliott 61), Gorrin (Armstrong 61), Egan, Watson, Honeyman, Oliver, Laidler (Mandron 78), Lawson, Deacon.