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Tactical talk: Marouane Chamakh

How would Chamakh fit in to the Arsenal starting line up? Will he at all?


By Basil James.

As the Premier League season inches closer to us, the teams are about to start their pre-season games, with Arsenal playing Barnet this weekend. Arsenal have been particularly active in the transfer market this summer and it will be interesting to see how the new recruits shape up in Arsenal colours. The signing of Marouane Chamakh in particular, has set the ball rolling as pundits and fans alike have put on their thinking caps to figure out how Wenger is going to utilise him.

Having proven his credentials in Ligue 1 and the Champions League last season, I feel Chamakh should definitely be a starter in the current Arsenal squad. But where is Wenger going to play the forward? At the surface, it certainly appears to be a selection dilemma for Wenger.

Last season, the Gunners played a formation that could be described as 4-2-3-1 with Robin van Persie as the lone forward until he got injured. Nicklas Bendtner became his replacement in the same formation. The forward had Fabregas just behind him, with Nasri and Arshavin on the right and left wings respectively, while Denilson and Song were slotted in as defensive midfielders, linking the defence and attack. The lone center forward often played as a false nine. A false nine is a player who starts out as a center forward in a match but gradually slips into center midfield.

Interestingly, Bordeaux used a similar system last season. Chamakh was the lone center forward and he too was used as a false nine, thus providing some man advantage in midfield. He frequently dropped back into midfield and when Bordeaux was firmly in attack, made darting runs forward upon which the wings fed him the ball. He lays the ball off to the midfield which in turn was supplied to the wingers. When Chamakh made his run, the ball was put at his feet. Chamakh’s powerful headers came into good effect through the consistent crosses provided to him.

Now, if Arsenal are to play the same formation as they did last season, chances are that either Van Persie or Chamakh would be left on the bench as the system has space for only one center forward. Unless either of them is willing and capable of playing on the right wing, the role Nasri took on last season, I do not see them starting together in the current system. But that option seems like a remote possibility as neither player has the qualities that define an usual winger. They are much better off playing their usual positions.

Robin van Persie has always been injury prone and Chamakh could be an ideal replacement and cover for the mercurial Dutchman. That would mean that the Morrocan forward spends most of his time on the bench and only comes on as a substitute. I certainly do not think he can displace van Persie, who has consistently started for club and country when fit, in the starting line up.

What if Wenger was to play a different formation? One option is the traditional 4-4-2, but that formation has long been out of question. It does not exactly suit Arsenal’s fluid system of playing and the general trend of formations around the world suggests that it is on the way out. The World Cup is a more than enough example.

Another option could be a 4-3-3 in which both RVP and Chamakh plays as forwards with Fabregas (assuming and hoping he does not leave) as the  third forward slightly behind them and dropping back to midfield in the course of the game. Effectively it would be a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Arshavin and Nasri on the flanks and Song as a defensive cover.

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