As Marouane Chamakh left the field last night, his name reverberated around the stadium, and for good reason. The striker has been a breath of fresh air for an Arsenal side which has all too often struggled with injuries up front. Together with the passing of Wilshere and Fabregas, and the movement of Arshavin, Arsenal pulled a new Braga side apart last night, scoring six goals.
Technically Chamakh is gifted, but this is only one of his strong points. He has the ability to create space for others, in holding the ball up superbly with a mixture of balance, strength and exquisite control. His touch is good enough that he generally holds on to the ball, even in very difficult situations, and his aerial strength means he can win headers and make knock downs.
In effect Chamakh is the perfect striker to play the ball into to hold it up. Not only this, but he makes excellent runs, has pace, a high work-rate, and scores – we knew this at Bordeaux, but he has managed to successfully make the transition to Arsenal, with surprising rapidity, slotting well into the 4-2-3-1. So far this season he has hit a goal in 3 consecutive home games – every time he has played there.
Against Braga spectators saw a striker on top of his game, playing for a team at their best, and given space by the Portuguese which is rarely afforded to them by Premier League sides, this allowed them to utilise their expansive passing and movement with precision and pace, racking up a dominant 58% possession and scoring six wonderful goals.
Chamakh’s goal was a great example of many of these strengths, the move involved good passing and understanding. There was the perfect example of Chamakh holding the ball with his back to goal, and then laying it off deftly to Wilshere, who in a flowing move played the ball back with a cheeky back heel, Chamakh then biding his time with a cool finish.
Apologies for the eulogising, but the scintillating football excites me a little too much. Arsene Wenger has signed a real gem who is perfect for the Arsenal system, but it remains to be seen how effective he can be against defenders of a higher class than those of Blackpool, Bolton and Braga.
Braga played as was expected of them, sitting deeper on the pitch, and trying to use the pace of Alan on the right and Matheus up front to get behind the Arsenal defence. They often attempted balls over the top, but didn’t look too threatening. They did have pace, and the Arsenal defence stayed slightly deeper as a result, a wise move.
Wilshere’s passing display was another positive feature, and in some ways he is representative of a refreshment of the squad this season. Against Braga he was fantastic on the ball, completing 82% of his passes, or 62, the most on the pitch.
Indeed it was Wilshere who set Fabregas through with a lovely ball, ending in a second Champions League goal for Carlos Vela, another who is also in form. With passers of the quality of Wilshere and Fabregas in the side Arsenal may be on the verge of recovering their old glory this season.
Vela and Wilshere, Walcott and Gibbs are all young players who are now playing to a higher standard. Add this to the clearance of deadwood in defence, replaced by Koscielny and Squillaci, as well as Chamakh as quality going forward, it is clear that Wenger has fine tuned the squad into a much more cohesive, and talented unit.
What would Arsenal showboating be without another amazing team goal? 17 passes and Carlos Vela slotting the ball home at the near post to open his Champions League goalscoring tally.
Courtesy of Arsenalist.com
The performance was excellent, but Braga are new to the Champions League and playing away from home. Not the best test of strength for this Arsenal side, and there are still questions over their endurance. However, this 6-0 victory has to be seen as a statement of intent.
There are more excellent articles available in the Tactics Report section.