The news that Robin van Persie is likely to be out for between four and five months due to the ankle injury he sustained in the Netherlands’ friendly in Italy earlier this month is a massive body blow for Arsenal. Not only is he their top scorer and set-piece specialist, he is also pivotal to the way they play.
Arsène Wenger has traditionally been loath to dip his toes into the uncertain waters of the January transfer window, but the mid-season signing of Andrey Arshavin last term was the catalyst for a superb burst of form that saw Arsenal assemble a 21-game unbeaten streak in the league.
Furthermore, van Persie’s absence leaves Wenger with a gaping hole in his forward line that none of his other attacking players can adequately fill. Eduardo is too much of a poacher, Nicklas Bendtner not enough of a direct goal threat, Theo Walcott more of a winger and Carlos Vela too raw.
The stage is therefore set for a renewed approach for Bordeaux’s Moroccan international striker Marouane Chamakh. The 25-year-old’s contract expires next summer and he spent much of the last transfer window agitating for a move to the Emirates. Wenger has openly expressed an interest in the player and revealed in September that he would reassess the situation when the transfer window re-opens.
“He is a player we were close to signing,” said Wenger. “But at the moment we have lost a little bit of touch with him because there is no transfer period now. We might reconsider the position if it is needed in January.”
Chamakh reiterated on Friday that his desire to play in the Premier League remains as strong as ever.
“I just want to achieve a great season with Bordeaux, then maybe sign for a club in the Premier League,” he said. “However it would be fine [moving in January for a fee] so everyone could take advantage of the transfer.”
The situation is complicated, as Wenger admitted earlier this week, by Bordeaux’s qualification for the knockout rounds of the Champions League. It is the first time the club have made it to the last 16 since 1999-2000 and the impressive manner of their qualification – topping a group that included Juventus and Bayern Munich – may persuade Chamakh to remain for one last hurrah with the club where he has spent his entire professional career.
Positionally, he is a good if not exact replacement for van Persie. Though usually joined by a strike partner in domestic games, he is frequently selected as a lone forward when Bordeaux play in Europe and was particularly effective at the head of a 4-2-3-1 in the 2-0 victory over Juventus on Wednesday.
Tall, athletic and very strong in the air, he also has an excellent first touch and his relationship with Yoann Gourcuff was one of the driving factors behind Bordeaux’s title charge last season. Link-up play like this certainly would not look out of place in N5: