A passionate defence of an underrated Gunner, who deserves more respect!
Marouane Chamakh is an enigma to me. My gut feeling tells me he is a very important player for us, and yet his performances to date have been regarded as unimpressive.
Unimpressive if you compare him to Robin van Persie, and look at the hard stats of ‘total goals scored’ and ‘goals scored per game’; unimpressive if you study his body language – he seems uninterested, and unhappy with himself, and isolated and lost amongst his teammates. But statistics and perceptions are not all and everything, and I have learned to trust my gut feeling a bit more over the years.
Recently, the super-gelled Moroccan has come under some fierce criticism from fellow Gooners, and I feel a need to stand up for him. I believe Chamakh is a vital player for Arsenal and – here comes the controversial part – not as a sub, or a so called bench warmer, a squad player, no: Marouane’s real importance for Arsenal is to lead our attack from the start far more regularly.
I can imagine you saying now: you are a mad man: have you seen him recently? He just scored one goal and missed many opportunities – he is rubbish, get rid of him. Chamakh started three games for Arsenal this season: Udinese, Shrewsbury and Olympiakos, all three home games, and all three we won. RvP started 9 games in the same period of which we only won 3, drew 2 and lost 4. I can imagine you saying now: RvP has been (one of) our best player(s) and our bad start to the season has nothing to do with him: our problems lay somewhere else. I would ago along with that for now: it is early days and we have had to endure a topsy-turvy start to this season, so it would be wrong to pull any conclusions yet. Still, it is not unremarkable that we won 3 out of 3 when Marouane started for us in recent games.
I am not that keen on statistics. In fact, I can hardly listen to SKY Sports live commentary anymore, for the simple fact that statistics are thrown at us constantly, and very often these are totally useless and distract us from watching the game in peace. They like to use stats to have an indirect dig at Arsenal, cleverly leaving it to us to pull their (readily projected) conclusions. However, I realise I cannot say on this blog that Marouane Chamakh should get more starts, simply based on my gut feeling. So, I did some statistical homework regarding the previous season, and this is what I found:
Started: 27 games (all competitions/ Arsenal only).
Team Goals during MC games started: 65 goals – on average 2.41 team goals per game.
Individual goals during MC games started: 11 goals – on average 0.41 individual goals per game.
Games won during MC games started: 16 wins – of all games started with MC 59% were won.
Games drew during MC games started: 6 draws.
Games lost during MC games started: 5 defeats.
Robin van Persie:
Started: 26 games (all competitions/ Arsenal only).
Team Goals during RvP games started: 48 goals – on average 1.85 team goals per game.
Individual goals during RvP games started: 18 goals – on average 0.69 individual goals per game.
Games won during RvP games started: 13 wins – of all games started with RvP 50% were won.
Games drew during RvP games started: 6 draws.
Games lost during RvP games started: 7 defeats.
So my gut feeling was right all along: Chamakh is an important player for us and compares well with Robin van Persie.
In fact, when Chamakh started for Arsenal during the 2010-2011 season, we scored significantly more goals (2.41 goals per game compared to 1.85 for RvP) and we won more games (59% compared to 50%) than when RvP started during that same period. Yet, the latter one is loved and respected and the former is, shall we say, less appreciated. You might say that MC is a striker and he should be judged on his goal scoring record, but for me that does not matter anywhere near as much as his contributions to us winning games. And btw, 0.41 goals per game is not bad at all. RvP’s 0.69 goals per started game is of course phenomenal, but if Arsenal – as a team – score less goals and win less games then this is, overall, less valuable to us.
For me, there are two reasons why Chamakh is less appreciated. Firstly, he is far less effective as a substitute. Marouane is simply not a super-sub and will probably never be one, but this is having a big impact on how he is perceived. Secondly, his contributions to our team are far less visible then those of RvP. He works hard and often with his back towards the goal, linking well with his fellow attacking midfielders, creating space and opportunities for them. This will not get him into the big headlines, as strikers are almost entirely judges on goals and assists – the curse of statistics.
When RvP plays, other attacking players appear to work hard to get him in goal-scoring positions – in a way ‘outsourcing’ the responsibility of scoring goals to him only. When Chamakh plays in games from the start, there appears to be more collective responsibility for scoring goals and he works hard to allow the midfield to move forward into the danger area, and to put his fellow attackers in positions to score goals. Of course, like every other Gooner, I would like him to be more selfish and hungry at times, but as the stats above indicate, his role and contributions to our team are more valuable to us than we think.
To give you an illustration of this: the other day, against Olympiakos, Chamakh was heavily criticised for his performance. He did not score, wasted a couple of good opportunities, and he did also not have any direct assists. Yet, both goals would not have happened if it was not for him. For the first one, he took defenders with him into the box, whilst the Ox was left with space to take, relatively unhindered, a shot from the best possible position (he took it well, mind you!). For the second one, he created the space for Santos to take a shot to the near post of the goalkeeper, who had no choice but to get a bit closer to Chamakh, so Santos could not play him in. You might say, I am clutching at straws, but football is a team sport and it’s often those sort of relatively small things that can make a real difference to whether goals are scored or not, or whether we win or lose.
Chamakh deserves more respect from us and, I for one, hope that he will get to start a lot more games for Arsenal this season.
Chamakh oh Chamakh
Not scoring, yet winning still
unveil your merit!