Having discussed the tactical possibilities available to Arsene Wenger with new signing Marouane Chamakh, it seems appropriate to follow up with a more detailed study of the way Chamakh actually plays, based on matches he played for Bordeaux in 2009-10.
Under Laurent Blanc Bordeaux used a clear 4-2-3-1 formation, relying on attacks from the wings, with Gourcuff running the centre of midfield. The team played good football, building possession from the back, and attacking with three creative players and Chamakh. Their formation is visible in this screenshot of the Lyon vs. Bordeaux Champions League Quarter Final first leg in 2010. The fullbacks are marked orange, the holding midfield yellow, attacking midfielders in blue, and Chamakh as striker in pink.
Chamakh played a crucial role for Bordeaux, leading the line and scoring goals, a constant threat to defenders. His style does not involve running with the ball or outpacing opposing defenders, but rather linking up with midfielders, and holding up the ball, in the ‘false nine’, and converting crosses in the box.
Good movement is a crucial feature of his game. When in possession he looks to drop deep in order to receive the ball and pass. In this scenario he almost always lays the ball off to midfield before and making a forward run, similar in style to Van Persie. In this way he can hold play up whilst support from the three creative midfielders gets forward up the pitch.
This style of dropping deep to support the midfield also made use of Chamakh’s powerful heading ability. This was utilised by Bordeaux from goal kicks, here he actually moves deeper than the three attacking midfielders, attempting the flick on, and then running forward into space.
In image 1. he drops back (pink) to head a goal kick, actually between the lines of the central midfielders (yellow) and attacking midfielders (blue).
Image 2. shows the resulting attack, with Chamakh (pink) running into the space he has created, meanwhile the attacking midfielders pushing forward have effectively created a 4 vs. 4 situation, whilst the Lyon right back is now stuck marking the left midfielder. This allows space between opposition fullback and centre back which Chamakh always looks to exploit.
A noticeable trait is his desire to play behind the shoulder of the last centre back, switching as the ball switches sides, which means that the defenders never have an easy time tracking him, his exploitation of the space between the centre back and fullback is especially effective when the opposition fullbacks are pinned down by the wide players in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Indeed he popped up behind the last centre back to score against Lyon in the Champions League Quarter Final first leg.
As a single striker he interchanges well with the attacking midfield, creating space, making runs and pressurising within the opponents half. Another feature of his play is to move wide to the wings, looking to create space in the centre for forward runs from midfield.
In the Lyon match Chamakh’s movement across the defence was clear, and this time allowed him to exploit the gap next to the other Lyon centre back. Indeed in this situation the opposite fullback (orange) is outnumbered two to one by Bordeaux midfielders (blue), and Chamakh is able to create space around him whilst Michel Bastos, the Lyon left back is still up field.
His runs across the defence to create space were also demonstrated during Bordeaux’s 1-0 win over Montpelier in December 2009. Chamakh (pink) is running across the Montpelier back line, taking the adjacent centre back with him. This opens up space infront of the Montpelier goal where central midfielders will not be closed down as quickly (blue box), and additionally provides an option for the fullback (blue) to pass to Chamakh out wide.
Alternatively Chamakh remains on the shoulder of the last defender looking for a lofted pass or through ball. This also means that the central defence are occupied and as noted in several matches, his constant movement across the defence means that they must stay alert to pick him up.
Without possession Bordeaux used Chamakh as the front line of defence when without possession, whereby he pressured within the opponents half, chasing down defenders, but remaining forward of the halfway line.
One of Bordeaux’s main avenues of attack seems to have been spreading play to the wings, and putting in crosses for Chamakh to score from. The striker gets into the box early and will usually challenge for headers, leading to his high success rate for headed goals. This approach could be used by Arsenal; the wide players, especially Sagna can provide quality crosses, which Nicklas Bendtner has occasionally used to good effect. If this method of play is developed then new options open up to the Arsenal side.
The transfer of Chamakh could be seen as shrewd business by Wenger, this is a player with proven Champions League quality, and whilst his style does fit with the Arsenal team, he is actually able to combine aspects of the ‘false nine’ with the ‘fox in the box’ that Wenger eulogised about all those years ago. The opportunity to change approaches, and more successfully convert aerial balls into the box will be welcomed by the team, and critics who often point out the club’s lack of plan B.
All of the aspects of Chamakh’s playing style discussed above are represented in the video of his touches against Juventus in the Champions League 09/10, remember the points about movement and dropping deep and it seems very clear.
If you liked this then have a look at detailed analysis of Theo Walcott – you won’t regret it.