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The ex-South Korea skipper has managed just six appearances since his August move to London and needs an off-season transfer to boost his wavering reputation in his homeland

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By Ben Somerford | Asian Football Editor

As another weekend passes by, another opportunity for Park Chu-Young to get a game at Arsenal goes by with it. At least on Saturday, in the Gunners' 3-3 draw with Norwich City, Park made the 18-man matchday squad, such is his current fringe status at the Emirates Stadium.

Indeed, it had been almost a month since Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger included Park in a Gunners squad, with his only recent game-time coming in the reserves. This has been the case all too often since the South Korean's move from Monaco last August, and it's left many in his homeland wondering what's happened to the former national team skipper.

Now with the 2011-12 Premier League campaign almost complete and South Korea preparing for their fourth round 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in June, many are asking where Park's future lies. After a hugely disappointing first season in England, where he's only made six first-team appearances - and just one in the league - the 26-year-old Daegu-born forward is at a critical juncture.

PARK'S 2011-12 SEASON STATS
Competition

PL
Europe
FA Cup
League Cup

Starts


0
1
0
3


Sub

1
1
0
0

Goals

0
0
0
1
Make no mistake, in South Korea, Park is a huge name. Since the international retirement of Park Ji-Sung after the 2011 Asian Cup, the former FC Seoul man has become the centre of attention when it comes to the Taeguk Warriors.

He's massively popular in his homeland and hugely divisive too, as evidenced by his recent move to defer his compulsory national military service due to a clause he discovered by obtaining a 10-year Monaco residency visa from his time with the principality club. That act alone has created all sorts of debate in South Korea, with big names such as national team legend Cha Bum-Kun and Lee Young-Pyo weighing in on the discussion. There remains a public sentiment in South Korea that Park's military duty deference means he does not deserve to wear the national team shirt.

In this context, Park's lack of first-team action works against him greatly. Ahead of the upcoming May 30 friendly against Spain, Korea coach Choi Kang-Hee recently said: "Park Chu-Young did not play at Arsenal, and there's the military issue as well, so I have to think about him."

At the age of 26, when the South Korean should be at the peak of his powers, his national team future is in doubt. That's all the more incredible when you consider he was given the Korean armband after the Asian Cup following Park Ji-Sung's retirement (only to lose to Kwak Tae-Hwi in February) and that he scored eight goals during a run of five internationals in 2011.

Park's chief concern needs to be his club future, which must be resolved. Despite Wenger signing him in August for a reported fee of £3-5 million (€3.7-€6.2m), the Frenchman has had little faith in utilising the striker. Arsenal's early season issues also meant he wasn't afforded a settling-in period in the first-team but he hasn't done enough to catch Wenger's eye either, despite a nice League Cup goal in October.

"Park Chu-Young did not play at Arsenal, and there's the military issue as well, so I have to think about him"


- Korea national team boss Choi Kang-Hee


Wenger's 4-3-3/4-5-1 system, spearheaded by star man Robin van Persie, has worked against the Korean, while the Gunners boss opted to sign Thierry Henry in January on a short-term loan, and has brought in Lukas Podolski form Koln for next term as Park is continually overlooked. The Korean doesn't appear to be in the plans of Wenger. As a result, with game-time paramount to his national team career, Park must ponder his future.

A big pre-season at the Emirates Stadium could revive his Arsenal career, but with Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela potentially set to return to the club after loans, combined with Podolski's arrival, he will face increasingly stiff competition for a regular run in the side.

Perhaps he should follow Bendtner and Vela's lead and seek a loan switch. Speculation has been rife about interest from Fulham and Anderlecht in the second half of this season and he could do a lot worse than those two options. One thing for certain is that Park cannot afford another campaign like this term, for the good of himself, the Gunners and his national team.

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