Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Morocco striker Chamakh plotting Palace resurrection

AFP, LONDON

Then-Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh, left, shoots against Malaysia in their friendly match at Bukit Jalil Stadium south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 24, 2012.

Photo: AFP

Three years after joining Arsenal from Girondins de Bordeaux, Marouane Chamakh finds himself attempting to resurrect his career amid the rather less glamorous surroundings of Crystal Palace’s modest Beckenham training ground.

The spearhead of the crowd-pleasing Bordeaux team that swept to a Ligue 1 and Coupe de la Ligue double in 2008-2009, the French-born Morocco international target man was identified by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as a player capable of bringing a keener cutting edge to his side’s patient passing play.

With Robin van Persie being eased back into action after injury, Chamakh began the 2010-2011 campaign as Arsenal’s first-choice striker and he found the net 10 times in his first 21 games.

Van Persie’s return to full fitness soon cost Chamakh his place in Wenger’s first XI, though, and after scoring just once in the second half of his debut campaign he disappeared from view almost completely.

The following season he made just 11 appearances, scoring once, and although he netted a brace in a madcap 7-5 win at Reading in last season’s League Cup, it was as a member of a second-string side.

He ended the 2012-2013 campaign on loan at West Ham United, but played for just 150 minutes and failed to make it off the bench in the last four months of the season.

His diminishing returns meant that newly promoted Palace would only offer him a one-year contract, but the 29-year-old believes the south London club’s colorful manager Ian Holloway is the man to help him relaunch his career.

“I’m really happy to be here, to be signing for Crystal Palace,” he told his new club’s Web site after signing on Monday. “To work with the manager, I think it will be easier. He changed my mind about this club and the project, so I am happy to work with him and to meet the other players at Crystal Palace. I hope it will be good this year.”

The move to Selhurst Park also represents an opportunity for Chamakh to revive his international career, after he was left out of Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi’s squad for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Chamakh has had to become accustomed to feeling unwanted, having been such a part of the furniture during his eight years with his local club Bordeaux, where he described himself as “a child of the club.”

Raised in Aiguillon, 120km southeast of Bordeaux, he joined them at the age of 16 and quietly developed into one of the most physically imposing forwards in Ligue 1, netting 13 league goals as Laurent Blanc’s side claimed the club’s sixth Ligue 1 title in 2008-2009.

His transfer to Arsenal was protracted and he claimed to have rebuffed interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, as well as some “crazy offers from Russia,” before finally alighting at the Emirates in July 2010.

He described it as a “dream move,” even if his heart still belonged to his hometown club — French television channel TF1 pictured him wearing Bordeaux shin pads beneath his Arsenal socks shortly after his arrival.

Blanc nicknamed him “The Plank” due to the way his Bordeaux teammates bounced their attacking moves off him, but despite his skill at holding the ball up, his lack of pace was always likely to provide an obstacle amid the cutthroat speed of the English Premier League.

So it proved and by November 2011, Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud was already on the telephone pleading with him to return to the Stade Chaban Delmas.

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