Two cents on the competition between Chamakh and Bendtner
The Leyton Orient replay win may have seemed an exercise in tedium – a dangerous phrase to use in Arsenal Land – but to get that winning feeling again after the League Cup defeat was ever important. Perhaps playing those players that missed out in the final enabled Arsenal to ensure the job was done rather than allow those first-hand experiencers to wallow in their demons. Football’s a team game nevertheless and as a collective, they suffer the highs and the lows together. Much of the changes were enforced, due to injuries and accounting for a busy schedule, so as an interesting sub-plot, this match allowed the second-team players to present their case – especially with the big match against Barcelona coming up.
Gael Clichy completed the 5-0 rout to add to the one scored by Marouanne Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner’s hat-trick and the competition between the pair is certainly hotting up. Arséne Wenger refused to be drawn into who would be favourite to play in the coming matches but both players knew they were auditioning to play the role of the man with the glass slippers – Robin van Persie. Starting in the centre, Marouanne Chamakh is seemingly in front due to the 11 goals he has scored in all competitions this season and seamlessly making the transition into Arsenal’s system but Nicklas Bendtner remains hot on his heels since making a return from injury. His three goals have now taken his tally 9 goals this season.
Both men got on the scoresheet but the reaction to the display remains slightly muted – and that not because of the sparsity of the Emirates crowd. On the one hand, the fans realise the enormity of the task in Catalunya and the month ahead, that without some of their best players while not much can feasibly be drawn from a rudimentary win over lowly opposition (with all due respects to Orient). Robin van Persie has also made himself difficult to replace – or rather, difficult to replicate – due to his altruistic style and all-rounded play. No one works the opposition defenders as hard as him and he has shot to the top of the club goalscoring charts with 13 goals in his last 11 games. Bendtner, for each of his artistically taken goals, displayed a sodden touch and a number of careless passes. Chamakh, on the other hand, looked passive in his play when taking into account his built frame.
If that sounds like an overly harsh assessment on the two strikers, then it’s probably because it is. Bendtner had a great game against Stoke as the roving striker and whenever he has been called upon on the right, he has put in a solid shift. Against Orient, he constantly made himself available in dangerous positions, coming in off the flanks and looking to link up with the midfielders and get in behind the defence. And Chamakh needs not to convince of his suitability to the Arsenal cause having had an impressive first-half of a season, roaming around the pitch and neatly knitting up play. He doesn’t necessarily have to use his tall frame although it is in his locker should the team need it. His one criticism is that he could go “behind” more because when he does, it gives Arsenal more incision. Chamakh has already won his fair share of penalties when he does and the red-card to Dedryck Boyatta effectively turned the game in the 3-0 win over Manchester City earlier this season.
In some respects, Nicklas Bendtner is a victim of his own versatility because it means less matches in his preferred position but he realises, at the same time, that it gives him a better chance of making the starting line-up. A criticism usually levelled at coaches is that, by playing a player out of his natural position, it can shackle them and make them less effective although it can be said at the same time, that the thought itself, can be regressive to certain players. For example, Samir Nasri has recently talked of the threat of Lionel Messi and he sees the Argentine as an even greater danger by playing up front. A player of such inventiveness would normally be used as a team’s playmaker, yet, by playing higher up, it allows Messi more freedom to do damage to teams. The same analogy can be used of Nasri, who despite looking like the “next Zinedine Zidane,” has actually performed just as well, if not better, as the half-winger role on the right. The position caters to the Frenchman’s direct and swivelling style. Some players can play different positions without significantly altering their impact or it being subversive of their innate qualities. Of course, there are others like James Milner, who perhaps do not obviously excel better in one position than the other but put in a decent shift nonetheless.
Bendtner’s qualities are not necessarily neutralised or indeed heightened, by playing wide right nevertheless he is still able to stamp his quality to the team. Against Sunderland, who will probably sit deep and remain organised, his diagonal runs can present an unorthodox threat coming off the touchline and his height posing Kieran Richardson at left-back, an altogether unfamiliar threat. Against Barcelona, he will be required to exploit the space in behind the full-back with his dynamic runs especially so without Theo Walcott stretching play. For BBC Football Focus, he briefly talked about this role he plays on the right which he did so for the early part of last season before making an impact in the centre for the latter stages of the campiagn: “It can be difficult when my target is always trying to be a starter in the Arsenal team,” said the ever ambitious Dane. “And before my injury, I actually succeeded with that and I played out on the right to tuck in behind van Persie at times.”
Bendtner has also the added advantage of starting because he is in rich goalscoring form although to the point of which goals where the only measure of a striker’s importance to the team, should have been outdated half a century ago, especially with the dynamic movement displayed by Hungary when on tour in England. The Russian, Boris Arkadiev, preached the thirties that football is a combination game, devoid of discrete roles and while that may be a tad too theoretic, it highlights football is at first, a holistic game. Arsenal’s tactic is as much, to get the midfielders in goalscoring position as it is the forwards although the percentages remain higher with the forwards.
Both players equally deserve their chance to replace van Persie, although it’s just a shame it’s had to come under these circumstances. And equally, it is feasible both can be fitted into the team at once. It’s a choice which is held with much anticipation because fans and staff alike realise the significance of this important month. Either way, both Chamakh and Bendtner will be relied upon to deliver the goods for Arsenal.
Filed under: Arsenal
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