Our player season review continues with a guest post from The Backwards Gooner (aka as Mr Renoog) on Marouane Chamakh.
2010-2011 was very much a season of two halves for Marouane Chamakh. The wiry Moroccan was signed on a free once his contract at Bordeaux had run out over the summer, a transfer that was perhaps slightly overdue (Arsenal reportedly had a bid turned down the previous season). Nevertheless, Wenger had got his man and Chamakh slotted into his new role – as reliable backup to false 9 extraordinaire Robin Van Persie – with ease.
His competitive debut came against Liverpool at Anfield, a match which saw Arsenal struggle to a 1-1 draw. Shorn of some of their strongest attacking players, Chamakh looked a little lost as the lone front man, but proved his worth in the 90th minute when he attacked a harmless-looking Rosicky cross and forced Reina into conceding a comical own goal. His next game came against Blackpool at home, a 6-0 win where he showed his full repertoire as a centre forward – drifting wide to play in runners, winning a penalty, and scoring a header from a corner. It was a game which set the tone for his performances over next 3 months. With Van Persie suffering from his annual long-term injury, Chamakh was tasked with leading the line on a consistent basis, and unlike the previous season, he ensured that Arsenal didn’t falter in the Dutchman’s absence.
High-scoring wins against Bolton, Braga, Shakhtar and Man City followed, demonstrating Chamakh’s ability to integrate into the team’s passing game and to create space for the players behind him. His ability to provide an element of a plan B was also clear to see, 4 headed goals being ample evidence of his aerial threat (including vital goals to break the deadlock against Bolton, Wolves and Partizan), while poacher’s goals against Birmingham, Spurs and Shakhtar showed that he was fairly useful with his feet too. All in all, Marouane scored 10 and assisted 2 goals in the 21 games he started during the first half of the season, and Arsenal fans couldn’t be happier.
Then Van Persie returned from injury, and it all started to go wrong for Chamakh. He was relegated to the bench, and while it may not have been a surprise at the start of the season, it was a steep fall from grace for a player who’d acquitted himself quite well the previous few months. The remainder of the season saw Chamakh embark on a barren run that produced only one goal in 5 months, a tidy side-foot finish against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup. Limited to the occasional cup game and desperate late sub appearance, the centre forward struggled for form and it was in this period that his major flaw came to light – his shooting phobia. Chamakh averaged 1.4 shots per game in the Premier League and 0.8 in the Champions League, well below van Persie’s figures and less than all of the attacking midfielders playing behind him. His fear of finishing frustrated fans endlessly, and perhaps even the manager too. In a crucial league game against Sunderland, with van Persie out, Wenger opted to start Nicklas Bendtner in the centre forward role. It was the low point of the season for the Moroccan, and a far cry from the heady days of September and October. Things did pick up towards the end of the campaign with Chamakh often being called upon as a half-time substitute, but by then Arsenal had nothing to play for anyway.
Overall, Chamakh has done enough to show that he can be a very useful player for Arsenal in the coming season. His ability to play with his back to goal proved handy on many occasions – evidenced by assists to van Persie at Stoke and Arshavin at West Brom, or his clever lay-off in the build-up to Wilshere’s goal vs Shakhtar, among others. His runs on the shoulder of the last man were a constant menace at the start of the season, inducing half a dozen penalties, a handful of red cards, several goals and plenty of headaches for opposition centre backs. He provided Arsenal with the aerial dimension that their play has often lacked, helping to overcome stubborn deep-lying defences on several occasions. His season tailed off in disappointing fashion, but with a more integrated approach to rotation from Le Boss next campaign, Chamakh could prove to be a valuable squad player in Arsenal’s quest for the league title.
Season Grade: B-