Arsenal need Chamakh to rediscover early season form
Moroccan striker well-equipped to give Arsenal's title push much-needed boost, writes Kieran Beckles
Both Marouane Chamakh’s dip in form and Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to call upon the Moroccan striker threaten to undermine Arsenal’s Premier League title bid.
It’s been a torrid couple of weeks for Wenger’s men. Their shock defeat by Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final was swiftly followed by a premature Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona.
Title rivals Manchester United then ended their hopes of an FA Cup triumph to leave the league as the Gunners’ only chance of ending their six-year wait for a trophy this season. It was a crucial and decisive period, but throughout it Chamakh has been used sparingly.
The Moroccan’s recent anonymity is in stark contrast to his contribution in the first half of the season.
The 27-year-old forward had scored seven league goals by the end of November after having featured heavily in late 2010 when covering for the injured Robin van Persie.
But the Dutchman’s return to action in December pushed Chamakh down the Emirates pecking order – and it was perhaps unjust given the manner in which the Moroccan had blossomed as Arsenal’s first-choice front-man early in the season.
Unlike many other imports from Ligue 1 -including Chelsea hit-man Didier Drogba -Chamakh appeared to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League with consummate ease.
He opened his account in his second game and goals soon followed in all competitions.
His imposing presence and ability in the air are attributes which make him well-suited to English football, but more importantly he adds physicality otherwise absent from Arsenal’s offensive line in seasons past.
And the forward’s impact did not go unnoticed. Gunners skipper Cesc Fabregas recently paid tribute to the striker’s early-season form. The Spaniard said: “He did very, very well in the first half of the season – he carried us really at times – scoring goals and really playing for the team.
“Sometimes you forget what happened earlier in the season, but I really think he’s been amazing for us, especially when you remember it’s his first season.”
Chamakh has only featured sporadically of late and just five starts in three-months highlights his slump – and the inconsistent Nicklas Bendtner has seemingly have moved above the Moroccan in Wenger’s pecking order.
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes admitted that he had “never heard” of Chamakh in the wake of Barcelona’s clash with the London side – a comment which perhaps perfectly encapsulates his current situation.
Chamakh himself acknowledges that he has fallen off the pace since bursting onto the scene last August.
“I started the season very well, then, I’m human, I played a lot of games and I got tired and for me that’s the explanation of why I had that dip of form,” he said.
“It’s my first season in England, there is no winter break, we play on Boxing day with a lot of games in a row.
“For me this season is to learn to see how things go, how English football is. To be honest I didn’t think that I would play many games this season.”
Wenger must entrust his faith in Chamakh as the season reaches his climax. The striker already has experience in securing a domestic league title – he netted 13 times during Bourdeaux’s successful Ligue 1 campaign in 2008 -09.
And the Moroccan insists he is ready for the run-in. “I rested a lot and I worked hard because I knew I would be back at my best level,” said Chamakh in a recent interview. “I am happy because like the boss says I am working hard in training and I can see the benefits in the games.
“All this hard work will pay, I can now feel already the benefits of it, I’m feeling much better and hopefully I will finish the season strongly.”
His manager echoes his optimism. “We need Chamakh with the games we have in front of us,” said Wenger after Chamakh scored his first goal since November against Leyton Orient earlier this month.
“He had a great start to the season until the end of November and after he had a little bit of burn-out. Now he looks, even in training, to be coming back.”