During the summer of 2009, when Arsene Wenger sold Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City, many considered it a necessity to sign a replacement knowing very well Robin van Persie’s injury struggles.
But Arsene Wenger decided against buying another striker and it came back to haunt Arsenal dearly.
As predicted, van Persie got injured once again and with Bendtner also injured, Wenger was forced to draft Andrei Arshavin into the striker role. While Arshavin may be immensely talented, he lacks the ability to become the main target man and lone striker in Arsenal’s formation. Despite his best efforts, Wenger’s stubbornness cost Arsenal dearly.
So this season Arsenal fans were relieved when they understood that Wenger had finally signed Marouane Chamakh from Bordeaux on a free transfer. The Moroccan had been widely linked with the club for a long time but it was only this summer that a transfer came into fruition.
It hardly came as a surprise for Arsenal fans when van Persie got injured in just the third match of the season and what was his first start. So during the absence of van Persie and Bendtner up stepped the summer signing, Chamakh.
Chamakh performed admirably during the injury to van Persie as he scored nine goals in all competitions. He scored key goals in the matches against Partizan, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa and Bolton.
In just his first three and a half months of English football he went on to score 10 goals which was a great return for the Moroccan and for the side. In my opinion it was largely due to him and Samir Nasri that Arsenal were in a strong position to contest for the title when Fabregas and van Persie returned.
Chamakh is a striker who has never scored more than 16 goals in a single season for his previous club, Bordeaux, and the fact that he scored 10 goals in just three months is testimony to his will and adaptability.
Chamakh not only scored the goals for the Gunners, but he also added another dimension to the Arsenal game. He scored four goals via headers—something that happens rarely for a club like Arsenal who prefer to pass the ball into the goal than put in crosses. That is exactly what happened this season too. Despite having an aerial threat and force in Chamakh it was only rarely that the full backs put solid crosses into the box. Although there were crosses put into the box, Arsenal didn’t make use of Chamakh and his aerial threat to the fullest.
When they did he would create a nuisance of himself and would at least force the keeper into a save. Chamakh added another dimension to the Gunners’ attack with his physical presence that helped to create space for the likes of Nasri and Arshavin.
His link-up play too has been fantastic this season. He passed well with the other attackers and has six assists in the Premier League this season.
But ever since the return of van Persie he suffered a burnout as he looked short of confidence and suffered a goal drought that was only ended on March 2nd after he scored against Leyton Orient.
In the last two weeks he has performed better as he put in a good substitute performance against West Brom and inspired Arsenal to draw 2-2.
But in recent weeks I have seen a number of people questioning Chamakh and not giving him the credit I believe he deserves.
This is his first season in the English Premier League. During the absence of van Persie and Fabregas, two of Arsenal’s most influential players, he rose to the challenge and kept Arsenal’s title bid well and truly alive. He contributed in scoring the goals and he also assisted in scoring them.
Arsenal’s opponents have conceded three penalties as a result of fouls on Chamakh. Arsenal’s opponents have also been handed four red cards as a result of fouls on the Moroccan. While these may not influence the statistics, it does not reduce the positive impact on the team.
Many people have criticized him, I believe, after viewing van Persie’s recent heroics. Chamakh is no van Persie and he never was and never will be. Their styles are completely different. Van Persie is a player who exploits his quick feet and lethal finishing inside the box to great advantage.
Chamakh showed during the start of the season that he can score goals and 10 goals in your first three months of English football is no mean feat and is commendable.
He uses his physical presence and is best at thumping in the headers as he did at Bordeaux consistently and has done in glimpses at Arsenal.
Chamakh’s finishing might not be the best but his strengths are many. Fans should appreciate him for what he is and not what they expect to see. His physical play and link-up play are vital to the Gunners. The goals Arsenal scored against Wolves and Blackpool would not have been possible without his heading prowess and physical strength.
Sure he has his drawbacks, but what player doesn’t? His goal drought was a result of exhaustion and the return of van Persie.
He has scored several important goals and as the season draws to the close, he is coming back to his best and Arsenal will require him to fire on all cylinders.