Whatever happened to Marouane Chamakh?
The curious case of the big name signing who now finds himself behind Nicklas Bendtner at the Emirates
With seconds remaining at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night and Arsenal trailing Barcelona 3-1, Jack Wilshere suddenly found himself with the ball at his feet and when he looked up saw a team mate bearing down on goal.
His pass found its target and Arsenal fans jumped to their feet. They hadn't mustered a shot on target all night but could this be the goal that put the Gunners through?
Sadly for them the recipient of Wilshere's pass was Nicklas Bendtner, and with his woeful first touch Arsenal's hopes of a thoroughly undeserved victory disappeared.
As Arsenal fans were left to rake over the ashes of another Champions League campaign and reflect on the Carling Cup final defeat a week earlier, they could have been forgiven for wondering whatever happened to Marouane Chamakh, the man who was expected to score the goals that would end the Gunners trophy drought.
This time a year ago supporters were on tenterhooks as the club's protracted pursuit of the Moroccan striker inched towards a conclusion.
The hitman, who finally agreed to join Arsenal from Bordeaux on a free transfer last May, had been doggedly tailed by Arsene Wenger for over a year and was hailed as the man who would terrorise defences up and down England and across Europe.
Even though it was obvious Arsenal needed cover in other departments of the team, it was Chamakh who was occupying the thoughts of fans at the Emirates. And while lesser players like Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci were brought in, the club's marquee signing last summer was Chamakh.
Now, two-thirds of the way through the season, and with the frailties of Koscielny and Squillaci fully exposed, Chamakh finds himself relegated to third choice striker at the Emirates, way down the pecking order behind even Bendtner.
On Tuesday against Barcelona, Arsene Wenger opted to start with a half-fit Robin Van Persie up front, and when Arsenal found themselves on the verge of elimination he turned to Bendtner rather than Chamakh to save the day.
A week earlier Chamakh warmed the bench at Wembley in the Carling Cup final, and was only sent on after Bendtner on that occasion.
The signs were promising earlier in the season when he was given an extended run in the team and appeared to acquit himself well. But Wenger had little option but to play him at the time - Van Perise had picked up an injury and Bendtner was distracted after the World Cup and rumours of an Arsenal exit.
When faced with three fit strikers in early 2011 a pecking order, with Chamakh at the bottom, was soon established.
In hindsight it now seems that Arsenal fans spent most of last spring monitoring their club's pursuit of a player destined to become cover for Bendtner, while little or nothing was done to plug the serious deficiencies elsewhere in the team.
After being torn apart by Barcelona and beaten by Birmingham the fans must surely expect more from Wenger when the transfer window opens again this summer. ·
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