Stop sniggering in the back in the back, but could it be time for Arsenal’s misfit Moroccan striker to make his return from the shadows and help save the Gunners’ flagging season?
Yes of course, we are talking about a man who started only one Premier League game in the whole of last season, scoring once in 19 appearances in all competitions, a man who in recent weeks has failed to even appear on the substitutes bench.
However, the Marouane Chamakh who produced a quite remarkable performance of hunger, commitment and incredibly, finishing prowess to net twice and help his side to a 7-5 League Cup victory over Reading last week, looked like the striker that Arsene Wenger had worked so hard and for so long to get.
In his few appearances since Chamakh disappeared from the first-team picture in December 2010, the former Bordeaux man has become a figure of ridicule for both Arsenal and football fans alike. It has not simply been his lack of goals, even the best and most expensive (Fernando Torres anyone?) can fall down on that front – his whole demeanour has left much to be desired: the rather hangdog expression, the sluggishness, the sheer inability to even look like he wants to perform for the shirt. All these tendencies made the Reading performance all the more surprising. Here we had Chamakh sliding into challenges on the half-way line, winning headers and knocking them down for team-mates around him and of course, finishing quite superbly with two long-range strikes at 4-4 and 6-5 respectively.
Perhaps the clearly astonished Arsenal fans had forgotten that in his first few months in North London, such performances were par for the course for Chamakh. Although never the most consistent or prolific of finishers, the Moroccan endeared himself to the Arsenal fans with his wholehearted passion, commitment and non-stop running, qualities that proved highly effective and brought him into double figures for the club before November.
Indeed, if the 28-year-old could re-produce those kind of performances on a more regular basis then it’s fair to say that he could represent at least an alternative if not a better striking prospect than Olivier Giroud, who for all his effort appears to lack the necessary tools to succeed for Arsenal in the Premier League at this moment in time. Chamakh, for all his poor form, has at least proven himself to be capable of succeeding in England.
Gunners fans reading this may see the notion of playing Chamakh ahead of Giroud as some kind of joke but does something different not need to be done if Arsene Wenger’s men are to recover a season that is in danger of slowly degenerating into mediocrity. Of course, for nearly two years now Marouane Chamakh has embodied that mediocrity at the club more than anybody else and if he is to re-appear for the first team once more, it must be the hungry and imposing target-man the Reading defence simply could not handle last week, rather than the pussycat that has been in evidence for nearly two years at the Emirates.
Indeed, even if Chamakh’s best form does return, that is not to say that Arsenal’s striking problems have been solved. At his very best, the Moroccan can be a pesky opponent for the opposition, but hardly one that will strike fear into defenders. Technique and goalscoring will forever remain a mark against the striker, no matter how well he plays and it must be remembered that he was initially brought to the Emirates to act as the alternative to Robin Van Persie when the Dutchman was injured. With Van Persie now departed and replacement Giroud still scratching around for form, relying on Chamakh for any long period of time would be a huge risk indeed.