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Some may object to the inclusion of Arsenal’s summer signing pointing to his recent struggles, but he did perform for the Gunners at the start of the season. He was integral in sustaining Arsenal’s title bid in the absence of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. At one point, Chamakh was one of the front runners of the transfer of the season award but his fading away has resulted in him being faced with severe criticism who have questioned his finishing ability.
But while he has faded slightly, it is harsh to criticise him especially since he has just played 304 minutes since the return of van Persie with just the solitary start against Wigan back in December. Chamakh is not the kind of player who can make an instant impact but he needs time to adjust into the pace of the game and to find his feet.
Wenger’s decision to persist with the 4-2-3-1 with van Persie spear heading the attack means that Chamakh rarely gets a start and so he struggles to score. But when he has come on, he has benefited the Gunners as his presence adds a bit of unpredictability to Arsenal’s passing approach and gives the defenders an aerial presence to worry about. In the matches against Blackburn, Stoke and West Brom it was after the introduction of Chamakh that the team started creating something. Also the full backs tend to cross the ball more on the ground than aerially thus limiting the Chamakh’s aerial prowess. Right now Chamakh is merely short on confidence and when regains it, he can be deadly for the Gunners as demonstrated in 2010.
When Robin van Persie became injured in August, the goal-scoring duties fell on Chamakh and the burden was increased with the injury to Danish striker, Nicklas Bendtner.
But thankfully for Arsenal, Wenger’s decision to sign Chamakh on a free transfer drew instant success and he played brilliantly for the Gunners, scoring goals, getting assists. Opposition players received four red cards as a result of fouls on him and he earned his team four penalties this season.
He scored 10 goals in all competitions until November but since then has slotted in only a solitary goal against Leyton Orient in the 5-0 thrashing in the FA Cup. But despite that his early season form was crucial in Arsenal’s title challenge and it was largely due to his goal scoring exploits that Arsenal did not face a crisis like they did last year when Van Persie was injured.
His goal-scoring streak in the earlier part of the season was a run which included goals against Wolverhampton, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton Wanderers. He might have struggled ever since, but considering this was his first season in the Premier League, his performances were admirable.
Many of his goals were headers with Chamakh scoring against Bolton, Partizan, Blackpool, and Wolves with his presence giving Arsenal the option of going the direct route, something we don’t usually see from Arsenal. His arrival meant that Arsenal now had a physical threat in the box—someone who could win the headers.
Chamakh’s strength lies in his fantastic heading ability but he proved that he can play with his feet as well and linked up brilliantly with the midfielders and the likes of Arshavin and Nasri and did a good job of dropping deeper, albeit his style differing to what van Persie does.
Chamakh might be struggling to score but in recent weeks he has looked sharp and has had a good effect when coming on as a substitute, despite Wenger’s reluctance to start him and Arsenal fans must be thankful to the Moroccan who kept alive their title hopes with a string of vital goals.