With the rumour mill suggesting that Yossi Benayoun is available for a mere 1m transfer fee (The fee of Eddie McGoldrick in 1993) I look back at the Israeli’s season at Arsenal and evaluate whether or not it would be a sensible move for us to make a move or wave goodbye.
As part of our desperate shenanigans on deadline day, we signed Benayoun on a season long loan deal from Chelsea. Many eyebrows were raised and rightly so. We found out he hadn’t undertaken a medical at Arsenal, as he was away with Israel at the time and he was coming off the back of a season where he missed seven months due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. That evening Benayoun tweeted
“Staying in London...will sign soon ... I will twitt when it happens”
Now there are several clubs in London but one only is really of any importance. The Arsenal twitterati went into overdrive and Yossi went on to tweet
“I sign with arsenal, very happy and excited about it, but now my head is only in the game against Greece on Friday, thanks for the support.”
That capped what was a frenetic 48 hours and our business was concluded. Our focus was now on getting some points on the board and climbing the Premier League table.
|New boys warming up prior to our game v Swansea.|
I think it’s fair to say for the most part of the 11/12 season we had a square peg in a round hole. He was a player that Wenger seemed confident to play in a cup games but reluctant to give a starting role come the Saturday. Yossi was very much a ‘squad player’ much like that of Marouane Chamakh if you get where I’m coming from. That said it was a cup game (and a meaningless one at that) that seemed to breathe some new life into Benayoun’s Arsenal career. We played Olympiakos away, you remember the ‘Santos’ game. In my opinion he was having a rough night but then he scored an absolute peach, the sort of goal that only a quality finisher can produce, a finish that smacks of ability not a fortunate goal by any stretch. That goal seemed to get him on the radar but he didn’t feature in the next two games but then he was introduced with nine minutes to go at Villa Park and he managed to score a header (from a corner) to secure us all three points. We were starting to unearth a midfielder/winger that could score goals, take not Mr Rosicky.
A Starting Berth
Off the back of Benayoun’s effort’s he was rewarded with his first two starts of the season in the Premier League against Wolves (H) and Swansea (A). Although his start against Wolves was due to Theo Walcott taking ill the night before but nevertheless he still set up Gervinho for our only goal in disappointing 1-1 draw. Following the Swansea disaster, Benayoun wouldn’t start another game for forty two days. The surprise was his next start was it was our biggest game of the season, Sp*rs at The Emirates. I needn’t say any more about that game but he provided us with a cutting edge to our attacks; he was busy and industrious, just what we had been missing. We then went on to win at Anfield with Yossi in the side.
A Pivotal Role
Out of the last seven games of the season he started six games, only missing out on one game due to the fact we played Chelsea. Yossi started that stretch of game by performing well against City, although he contrived to take part in one of the misses of the season along with Vermaelen, I still don’t know how that opportunity passed us by. This was followed by a very tidy finish away at Molineux and with that game he completed his first full 90 minutes in the Premier League for Arsenal, quite remarkable. Then Part III of our poor spell’s started against Wigan but he certainly wasn’t found wanting unlike many others. When we were exploited on the break for their opening goal, it was Benayoun who was challenging Di Santo as he tapped home and he wasn’t there by chance, he’d legged it from the edge of Wigan’s box. He was also up from some hard graft at Stoke, where he linked particularly well with Rosicky and we secured a draw. He scored another beauty against Norwich after one minute to give us a lead, on a day that should have seen a routine win but instead turned into a gut wrenching point, to think we thought Sp*rs would capitalise on our mistake eh? Silly fools. Yossi capped his final game of the season with a crucial opener at The Hawthorns, he chased what was a lost cause, a cause that created uncertainty and led to our opening goal. His name was sung aloud by the travelling fans and the stand was bouncing . Towards the very end of that game, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure by sitting back but when we managed to boot the ball clear, Benayoun killed it dead as if it was nothing special (fairly standard for a Premier League player). We went on to win a throw and the game was over. The place went nuts because he'd released pressure, put us back in control and secured us 3rd place. Something we rarely see, usually it's Gael Clichy slipping on his backside and the opposition punishing us but this for once was different.
|Benayoun nets the opener against West Brom|
Pro’s and Con’s
Sadly if you look at the signing from the point of view, I think the con’s outweigh the pro’s. He only completed two Premier League games all season, which for one reason or another will probably count against him as he doesn’t come with light wage packet. That said his ability to score goals, all be it in only a handful of starts but that cannot be overlooked. The likes of Rosicky and Ramsey have both been deployed on the wing at some stage but neither can manage goals in the preferred position let alone out wide. Then we have the Chamberlain factor, I truly believe Wenger did all he could to stop AOC going to the Euros but alas he failed. Ox has been used on the left and he has had success, it remains to be seen if it’s Chamberlain v Walcott or Chamberlain v Gervinho. If it’s the former then it would be good to have Gervinho and Benayoun competing for the left wing spot. I wanted to use Yossi’s age against him as a reason not to sign him but Rosicky is 32 in October and he recently secured a new deal, so I don’t see why that would be any different for the Israeli. You also have to factor in the possible emergence of Joel Campbell, I'm not sure whether we will get a work permitfor him but if we did I'd expect him to partake in a couple of Carling Cup games and the FA Cup 3rd round before going on loan to another Premier League side. Your left with more questions than asnwers and I haven't even mentioned Lukas Podolski.
Personally, I think we should sign him. There’s been a very healthy connection between him and our supporters. He has undoubted qualities and if we are to compete for honours we need players who can chip in with the fair share of big goals and performances. A two year deal is probably the best he could hope for and I’m sure we could manage to taper his wages slightly. I just hope the club tries to makes this transfer happen. Van Persie commented on Benayoun after his goal in Greece and he said:
“It was really good for Yossi scoring because he has been training unbelievably - trust me, he is absolutely unbelievable.”
High praise indeed but it adds weight to his signing. He delivers on and off the pitch probably because he comes across as a good honest, hardworking pro. We need players like this as it is something we have been lacking in certain areas of the field. I think he can also do a job as the creator in the our midfield trio, especially considering Wilshere's amount of setbacks we can't rely on Rosicky all season. That said, the only trouble is he seems to be referring to us in the past tense but then that could just be the usual contractual naviety that we often see displayed by our club.