Palace boss prompts resurgence of former Arsenal flop
12:27 30 January 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Marouane Chamakh could make his first appearance at the Emirates in nearly a year and a half on Saturday.
The last time he stepped out there was September 26, 2012, a 6-1 Capital One Cup win over Coventry City.
He didn’t score. But then he seldom did for Arsenal.
In fact, he only played the final 18 minutes of that game, coming off the bench to replace Francis Coquelin.
But Chamakh signed off his Arsenal career in the same competition with two goals in a crazy 7-5 win at Reading in the next round. It was a final glimpse of what might have been.
Arsene Wenger, though, had seen enough to know the time was right for a change.
A failed loan spell at West Ham followed, before Crystal Palace took a chance on him.
While Ian Holloway, who took him south of the river last summer, has left since Selhurst Park, under his replacement Tony Pulis – the man who boasted in November that he has never been relegated – Palace are showing signs of recovery. As is Chamakh.
Five wins under the Welshman have propelled the Eagles to the heady heights of 14th place – easily their highest position of the season – following Tuesday’s 1-0 success against Hull City at Selhurst Park.
It makes a mockery of the bookmakers’ view that they remain favourites for relegation.
Pulis kicked off his Palace reign by beating West Ham United 1-0 on December 3.
The scorer that day? Marouane Chamakh.
In fact, Chamakh netted three times in his first three games under Pulis, not to mention another in a 2-0 FA Cup victory at West Bromwich Albion earlier this month.
The goals may have temporarily dried up, but there is a feeling he has finally found his feet – and perhaps his level – in English football.
His hard-working display in a 1-0 win over Stoke City earlier this month, when he was forced to play as an isolated, lone striker, drew plaudits from many. His industry impressed, despite his lack of goals.
Who would have thought that a season or so ago?
Chamakh is slowly reminding us of the quality which produced 56 goals in 162 appearances for Bordeaux.
Veteran striker Kevin Phillips, the man whose Wembley play-off goal against Watford sealed promotion for the Eagles in May, said last week: “Chamakh has got some great qualities and doesn’t half work hard, while he is also settling into the squad.”
And Pulis clearly feels the French-born Morocco international is on an upward curve and can produce his best form in the red and blue of Palace, describing him as “outstanding”.
“He’s a really, really good player,” said the Palace boss. “What we’ve got to do is tie him down and make sure he works within the structure of the team.
“If he does that then he’ll be very important for us because he’s got that little bit of quality that everybody looks for.”
Wenger – and Arsenal – beware.