Arsenal FC's Jekyll & Hyde: the Curious Case of Marouane Chamakh
In the summer of 2010, Arsenal signed a player who most people felt would provide the adequate cover needed to back up star striker Robin van Persie.
Marouane Chamakh, a deadly aerial threat who developed his skills with the Girondins of Bordeaux, joined the club on a free transfer and Arsenal had its second striker.
With Van Persie sidelined by injury from international duty, the traditional easing in of a newcomer never happened; Chamakh was thrown into the fire from the outset, and he responded by taking the Premier League by storm.
On opening day, it was his header that deflected off Pepe Reina for an own goal, giving Arsenal a draw against Liverpool.
The next week, Marouane showed his aerial prowess with a header against Blackpool. Ten days later, he bagged his second goal against the Trotters.
Four days after that, he continued the Champions League run he had started with Bordeaux the season prior (five goals in six games), netting against SC Braga. He followed that, 13 days later, with a goal against Partizan Belgrade.
Before the end of 2010, the Moroccan had scored seven times in the Premiership and three times in the Champions League, as well as providing a number of assists.
To say that the newcomer was on fire would be an understatement; teams were forced to take note of his presence.
Then Van Persie came back to full fitness and Chamakh was reduced to the role of backup.
Rarely have I seen so drastic a turnaround (either for better, or worse) than with this Arsenal player; the best analogy I have is turning off a light switch.
Plays that were easy for Chamakh suddenly appeared to confuse him. His timing was off.
His passing suddenly became lacking (though he would continue to provide some assists throughout the rest of the season), and his movement off the ball seemed rudimentary at best.
What should have been the perfect mating of club and transfer became a questionable call, and the Moroccan joined the likes of Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner in a rotation of coulda-shoulda-wouldas to back up Arsenal's current skipper.
Chamakh's poor form has continued into the 2011 campaign, though he has managed to score again in the Barclay's Premier League, and has been close on a couple of other occasions.
That being said, what appears to be the issue is simple playing time.
Chamakh is a player who has to be in a groove to perform well and, in my humble opinion, he simply doesn't get enough continuous playing time with the first team to ever get back to that level.
I may be wrong in my estimation; Chamakh may simply have been overachieving for the first four or five months of his Arsenal tenure, but it is my firm belief that the Chamakh we saw from August to December of 2010 is still there.
I believe that Chamakh has the class to be successful at any level, but his shattered confidence lends to his current abysmal form.
Now with the January transfer window looming, the African Cup of Nations on the horizon and the rumors flying, what will become of Arsenal's North African associate?
There are plenty of unknowns in this case, but I can say this in the defense of Chamakh: He has been loyal.
Only recently has he mentioned that he's having issues with playing time, but for more than a year he's understood that he's not the main event and said all the right things.
Chamakh seems to have integrity and Arsenal has been lacking that some in the past. Unfortunately, it seems to have come with a loss of confidence.
My suggestion is for the Moroccan to try his hand elsewhere to regain his form, but I say that with only the best intentions for him.
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