ChAmAkh’ d Arse
Twelve months after we first heard that a deal was on the cards, Marouane Chamakh finally arrived at Ashburton Grove. It was a transfer so drawn out that it spanned an entire season, and made Arshavin’s epic deadline-day saga seem a flash in the pan. Given the alleged interest from other clubs in the top flight, it seemed that we would miss out unless we coughed up the millions that Bordeaux were demanding for their top forward. Fortunately luck was on our side and we signed him for nothing. Now that two months have passed, what have we learned about our new striker, and what impact can he have on our season? Chamakh’s career at Bordeaux under newlyappointed France boss Laurent Blanc was highly successful, predominantly in domestic competition but also to some extent in the Champions League. He was never a prolific striker, but was highly influential in Bordeaux’s attacking play, turning provider as often as goal scorer. It’s a shame we didn’t sign him sooner. Although he would have cost millions as opposed to nothing, his presence could have been a significant factor during those months last winter when we were forced to play Arshavin as a lone striker. It is his approach to the game and style of play that would have come in handy. He is not like our other strikers. He is no replacement for an injured Van Persie; they are very different forwards. But what is exciting is the prospect of a potential partnership between them – injury permitting of course.
Nadim Naaman hails a signing with qualities that Arsenal have been sadly lacking of late
Chamakh is a striker who naturally likes to lead the line. He breaks the current Arsenal mould slightly, choosing to link up with the midfield, track back to help the defence, hold up the ball and convert crosses. He’s less likely to be seen racing forward with the ball and trying to outpace defenders. Instead he likes to drop back and lay off to the midfielders before attacking, which encourages neat link up play with the other forwards. Also, he can often be spotted helping the increasingly fragile back four out when facing setpieces or prolonged pressure around our box. Put simply, he appears to provide more options. These options certainly include his most notable asset - his height, and his ability to score with his
4 head. Following the sale of that lovely chap Adebayor, our only real aerial threat of late has been in the form of Bendtner. Although much maligned, his seasonal goal tally consistently reaches double figures, and he does offer similar qualities to those of Chamakh. However, I would argue that Chamakh is a more complete version of a similar type of player. In fact Chamakh may well represent the player Wenger has been hoping Bendtner will evolve into. A striker who fits into the Arsenal style of play, but who also offers a Plan B – a target man, a direct route, a recipient of crosses and corners. There is one crucial difference though; whilst Bendtner will score ten goals a season, Chamakh is capable of 20. I would hazard a guess that due to injuries they will both get their chances in the season ahead and that their goals will be markedly different in style to those of Nasri, Arshavin, Van Persie and Fabregas. I know that this campaign is still young, but I would say that Wenger has chosen this new recruit well. Chamakh is averaging a goal every other game, and could well have scored another three or four. I am writing just after the Chelsea game – if his opening minute chance had come ten minutes into the game I’m sure he would have found the net. I don’t think even he could believe we had such a glorious opportunity to score so early in the game. All the positives, combined with the lack of a transfer fee, should lead me to say this is a great signing. There are, however, a few concerns. Not necessarily about Chamakh himself, but the forward situation at the club in general. Mainly I am concerned that history might repeat itself. We desperately needed another striker last season, with only four on the books. Whilst we have signed C h a m a k h , Eduardo’s Arsenal career has since come to a sad end. Incidentally, what odds on him to score against us in the Champions League? Given the injury track-records of Van Persie, Bendtner and Vela there is a lot riding on Chamakh’s shoulders. If anything should happen to him we could find ourselves begging Wenger to buy once
A striker who fits into the Arsenal style of play, but who also offers a Plan B – a target man, a direct route, a recipient of crosses and corners more in the January transfer window. The second concern is that I’m still not convinced by the consistency (or lack of) shown by Carlos Vela. Moments of brilliance late on in matches already won will not prove to be the difference in any attempt to challenge for honours. Does this mean we only have three proven strikers? Some might say… My third and final concern is really a culmination of all of these things. Anyone who saw the Chelsea game will know that whilst creating several chances, and with Chamakh involved in most of them, a ruthless edge was worryingly absent. Whether or not Chamakh is a match-winner remains to be seen, and it is far too early to judge him on that, but we have seen a few signs that his success depends significantly on what is going on around him. Whilst some players, namely Wilshere and Nasri, so far this season have had to run the show if need be, Chamakh’s goals have only come in matches that we have really dominated, and where the service has been spot on.
To convince us wholly, he needs to turn in a matchwinning performance; score two against Chelsea at the Bridge,
for instance, to turn potential into Van Persie-esque effectiveness. He needs to prove that he can turn a mediocre team performance into three points, and to be the difference. Only time will tell, but I for one think he’s made a much better start than many Arsenal signings have before him. Finally, a shameless plug – do follow my weekly thoughts and rants on my Arsenal blog, ‘Play the Arsenal way’ at www.goonernad.blogspot.com