Profile: Marouane Chamakh, Arsenal’s Next Signing

A few Stone Cold Arsenal readers have asked about Chamakh, what type of player he is and what he could bring to Arsenal. As the deal is almost done and Chamakh is set to become an Arsenal player, we thought we’d share our two cents about the Moroccan star.

Marouane Chamakh was born on 10th January 1984 to Moroccan parents in Tonneins, a small town 75 miles south east of Bordeaux. At the age of 16, he entered the academy of Girondins de Bordeaux and a year later he started playing in their reserve team.

It took him only one more season to join the club’s professional squad and he played his first game in the top flight barely a month after his 19th birthday. During that 2002-03 season, he played in 10 league matches and scored one goal.
The subsequent season, despite the arrival of a new manager, Chamakh confirmed his status as a first team player, taking part in 25 matches in the league and 8 in the UEFA Cup, scoring 10 goals in the process. Having opted to play for Morocco (he has a dual French and Moroccan nationality), he reached the final of the 2004 African Cup of Nations with Les Lions d’Atlas, but lost 2-1 to the host nation, Tunisia.

His performances and the 10 goals he scored in the 33 league games that he played in 2004-05 drew the attention of French champions Lyon. Chamakh wanted to go but Bordeaux were reluctant to sell him. The young and promising striker was unsettled and was relegated to the bench for the best part of the following season.
Nonetheless, he made a further 29 appearances and scored 7 goals, with Bordeaux finishing as runners-up in the league.

During the 2006-07 season, he got his first taste of the Champions League but Bordeaux were no match for Liverpool and PSV, although they beat Galatasaray to third spot in the group stage. Chamakh, who had only scored 5 league goals, was offered a new contract until June 2010.

The 2007-08 season was a turning point for Bordeaux, who appointed Laurent Blanc as their new manager but was somewhat unremarkable for Marouane who only managed 4 goals in 32 league games and as many in 7 UEFA Cup matches.
The following season, Bordeaux were back in the Champions League and had Yoann Gourcuff on loan from AC Milan. The two players hit it off and led Bordeaux to their first champions title in ten years, breaking Lyon’s uninterrupted seven-year dominance of French football. On the score sheet, Chamakh was back to double figures finding the net 13 times in 34 league appearances.

As soon as the title was secured, Marouane publicly stated his desire of leaving the club and Arsenal emerged as the most likely destination. However, Bordeaux who had exercised their buyout option to hold on to Gourcuff, were desperate to keep Chamakh on board too.

Whatever happened behind the scenes, Arsenal gave up on signing the striker, who then chose to stay at Bordeaux to see out his contract but refused to sign a new deal. It is probably fair to say it was around that time that the Moroccan international’s reputation in Europe started going beyond the French borders.

Not a typical goal poacher, Chamakh is comfortable playing as a target man. His obvious strength is his aerial game, not only because he culminates at 6ft2” but also thanks to his great leap and timing.
Chamakh may not be as clinical a finisher as Torres or Drogba (and clearly adequate training will help him improve that part of his game), but he is far from being clumsy with the ball at his feet and has the ability to keep it, to dribble past opponents and to link up with teammates.

Most importantly he has the intelligence and the coolness for making the right decision, even under pressure, and is rarely caught giving the ball away cheaply.

He is also a combative player, a fighter in the very noble sense of the term and he is not afraid of harassing the opponent’s defenders. All these qualities make up for his relative lack of pace, which is the only real flaw in his game.
This season, Marouane has scored 5 goals in 9 Champions League appearances and so far 10 goals in 37 league games. Bordeaux have already surrendered their title to Marseille and there is no doubt that Chamakh will be a Gunner next season, joining Arsenal as a free agent.

To impose himself in the Premier League, Chamakh may need to make his tall frame a bit more muscular but the most important aspect of his integration is likely to be his understanding with at least one of the current key players.
Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri have already welcomed him but it will be interesting to see how he will be used by the manager and whether his incorporation will induce, at times, a shift in the style of play or even a change of the system if he ever becomes indispensable to the team.

Marouane seems to be the type of player who needs the confidence of his manager and his teammates to do well. At Bordeaux, the players, the technical staff and the fans hold him in high regard and the reception he got for his last home game was a testimony not only to his achievements on the pitch but also to his human qualities.
It is worth noting that as a practicing Muslim, Chamakh does not drink alcohol and fasts during the month of Ramadan, which requires a specific training regime. This year Ramadan stretches from mid-August to mid-September and could impact the striker’s adaptation to the pace of the English game. Therefore we should not judge him too quickly, be patient and give him time to settle in.

With a first name that translates to “rock”, one can hope that Chamakh will become the anchor of Arsenal’s strike force. I for one, welcome him and look forward to celebrating the many goals that hopefully he will score and set up.

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 Arsenal, Football, Profiles

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