The Arsenal Column

Arsenal Analysis and Tactics. All views expressed are those of Pat Rice. (Disclaimer: they are actually not his words).

Yossi Benayoun: The loan diamond who came from Dimona

On-loan players are often quicker to win the hearts of fans than permanent signings. They have to. Time is at a premium to make an impact and like visits by long-distance, gift bearing relatives, you have to make the most of it. Fans often endear to their nuances and foibles quicker too; Yossi Benayoun was taken aback, as if it was the first time anyone has noticed, when asked about the conditioner he uses to maintain his perfectly groomed hair.

Ah, Benayoun. Speaking of foibles, I somewhat harshly likened him to Edvard Munch’s The Scream on Twitter but followers would also know just how much I rate the guy. Of course, I had little to back that up with  – he had rarely played for one-and-a-half seasons – but he was just made for Arsenal. His glide on the ball, his skinny frame that revealed nothing but indicated so much and his penchant for the big games. Yet, despite that, he rarely figured for the first part of the season. Unlike loan-signings, he was forgotten. This is what I wrote about him in December:

However, The Gunners do have someone to call on with capability to give Arsenal’s play a plurality in Yossi Benayoun; a fleet-footed schemer with an art deco finish but Wenger’s adamant his three striker tactic can be deadly and as such, Benayoun misses out. (Given the right creativity – another reason why Benayoun must play more often – and penchant to keep the ball).

But unfathomably, he’s forced his way into the team and his impact might even remain beyond next season. Not because he’s likely to stay – Benayoun knows he won’t get many games at a big club again despite his ability – paradoxly, a loan is probably the best chance to appreciate his talents. But because he gives Arsenal balance due to his artistry and next season, Wenger will want to replicate it. Playing on the left of the attacks, he’s put an end to the “three striker system” in big games at least. Because using someone like Benayoun out wide, Arsenal can keep the ball better and put pressure on teams higher up the pitch. It also synchronises better with their high-line and quick passing tempo.

The obvious answer here is that Arsenal, next season, will use their strength-in-depth and pick and choose styles depending on their opponents. But they won’t have a Benayoun – a Plan A in big matches, and a Plan B in smaller games. Aaron Ramsey is not the long-term solution on the wings and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still developing although he looks the best option. New signings might put a welcome spanner in the works – Lukas Podolski is a give-and-go winger and has the added advantage that Marouane Chamakh hasn’t of versatility that means he will always be involved.

Yossi Benayoun looks to be getting the credit he finally deserves and not just as essential as a coat-hanger in the dressing room. Okay, he’s only started five times in the Premier League but his affect is arguably far larger – that he’s impacted on the strategy and, laid the foundations for Arsenal to build on next season.

Anyway, here’s my piece on the effect Benayoun has had tactically for Arsenal Insider. Peace.

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11 Responses to “Yossi Benayoun: The loan diamond who came from Dimona”

  1. Sam says:

    Like the article and totally agree with sentiments of the writer. I do however feel he has been under utilised and wenger’s preference for Ramsey has cost us quite a few points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

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    And a title... Reply:

    Yossi fab player, and no one else than AW is responsible for His current form. But it is only RVP who has created more goal scorning opportunities than Aaron Ramsey this season, with 2 goals and 6 assists it’s quite impressive. So which points did He costs us, with Spuds He scored, with Fulham He had an assist. Always hard-working…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

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  2. James says:

    I’ve been disappointed with him. Done nothing special in any game he’s played. A big opportunity for him that he hasn’t made the most of. Not easy, but if he had the quality it would have shone through. No serious Arsenal fan would want to keep him.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 21

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  3. Dane Nielsen says:

    About Benayoun you are dead on. Even though you refrain from opening Pandoras Box, your Benayoun piece begs the question, why Arsene stuck to a system tailored for a departed Fabregas. Moreover, would the simplest modification of “the Fabregas system” not have been to employ a certain A. Arshavin in between the lines. Hanging just behind RVP, they would have been a deadly combo. Provided of course that AA would be getting into shape.
    I am an admirer of Wenger, but somehow he got too little out of the impish Russian wizard. AA was not without fault, but a lethal goalscorer/creative striker/midfielder all in one is hard to come by.
    I believe that AA felt demoted to insular winger, thus lost enthusiasm. Well the rest is history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

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    S Reply:

    @Dane Nielsen,
    I don’t think Wenger stuck to the system that he used with Fabregas was around. Now the creative duties are distributed among two, if not three, of the CMs. The 4-2-3-1 system is the best way of employing the skillful midfielders that Wenger likes and the club develops. I don’t think Wenger would have changed the system too much had there been no Fabregas, I admit this is hard to say, since Fabregas was around for a long time (8 yrs?)

    About AA taking Fabregas role: AA probably has the creative ability, of say, to pick the passes and run into spaces as an AM. But I don’t think AA has the athletic ability or inclination to press from the front, not even as much as Fabregas did. Now with the rotation of CM’s in the AM position, the pressing-from-the-front is distributed among the three + RvP and thus distributes the athletic load as well, in my opinion. I do like AA a lot but he doesn’t fit the system that much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

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    Dane Nielsen Reply:

    @S,
    Yowza, I am duly impressed by the rapid response. Yes, your points are all valid, especially the point about “athletic ability” of Arshavin.
    One could argue that pent up “gooner” frustration leads me to digress from a dead on Benayoun piece.
    2008 I fell in love with some little wizard from Zenith St. Pete…..
    During 08 Euros I became enthralled. I viewed Wengers Arsenal paired with AA as a match made in heaven. Why, because about once or twice every decade that lethal fox in the box/playmaker materializes. Pele, Eusebio, Cruyff, Maradona, Laudrup, T. Henry, Rooney, Arshavin and maybe RVP as of late.
    Arshavin turned 27 before truly showcasing his talents, so maybe there were some issues with vodka or downright laziness. Indeed it appears like AA has to shoulder most of the burden.
    However, the frustration is, that it never appeared like Wenger had a vision of using him like Zenith or the national team. A role in which he prospered indeed. When Fabregas headed for greener pastures, I at least romanticized that Wenger would unleash AA in a “in between the lines” a la Zenith role. At least have handed AA the show me what you got, or I will show you the door memo.
    Well, well so much for thought constructs.
    Compliments, as to your soccer writings. Rather succinct yet wonderfully insightful. Postseaseason one “lost love heartbreaker,” which begs for your pen to meet the paper. For Arsene one of the few romantics at the top managerial level, what a heartbreaker it must have been for him to let go of that rarest of diamonds, which he held in his hand for 8 years.
    Preseason fell to pieces, yet somehow AW collected himself after losing the love of his life.
    YOU HAVE TO WRITE THAT STORY!
    Personally, I view Fabregas as a flawed diamond. It may have been unfortunate for him to be named captain prematurely. But the Fabregas teams were never a “WINNING” team. Winning teams have leaders like Patrick Viera, Roy Keane and John Terry (yikes).
    Once again thanks for the quick response.

    Dane

    P.S. I live in the States, and I have 8-9 friends whom I directed to your site, as they were attempting to gain an understanding of that “foreign game.” Your writing is both succinct and accessible to novices. It has been a major catalyst in making them soccerfans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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    Arsenal Column Reply:

    @Dane Nielsen and @S,

    I agree with S here, it’s not quite the same system used when Cesc was here. In fact, it was altered, as Wenger says, to put more emphasis on the flanks – when the full-backs got injured, the creative players were forced upon greater responsibility but still fairly pluralistic.

    I think that’s part of the reason why Arshavin hasn’t been used centrally – a width game would have exposed the side far more than Arsenal needed this season. But it looks like it was on Wenger’s mind; he used him in the Carling Cup behind the forward but we’ve not kept the ball well enough to deploy him there.

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  4. Alan says:

    Benayoun was a key player in Liverpool’s title-run few years back (they never really found an adequate replacement for his role); he was injured all of last seasonand now seems to be getting back in shape. He’s talented with the ball and can score but most importantly he’s cunning and unpredictable, causing headache for defenders and opens up space for other players (I recall his pass to a Torres goal several years back cutting through the entire ManU defense). I think he’s much happier at Arsenal than Chelsea, why not keep him?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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  5. Ahmad says:

    Excellent piece as always.

    I really do hope that Arsenal continue with the deployment of a creative player on the left-hand side. As you stated, we are able to exert much more control against opponents.

    Furthermore, their passing game is taken up to a whole new level and it reminds of previous seasons when they would pass teams off the park. That is one of the reasons I fell in love with Arsenal. It is wonderful to see them with their old swagger back.

    Although the 3-striker system had the potential to be very effective, it always felt unnatural to me.

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  6. Wrenny says:

    What do we make of Wilshere as a potential replacement for Benayoun’s current role? Technical, creative, hard-working.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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    The Brain Reply:

    @Wrenny,

    That’s how he made his name for the youth sides – on the right, cutting and causing havoc (he wasn’t as comfortable on the left). I suppose, if Arsenal played 442, that’s where he might have played – certainly I couldn’t see him making the breakthrough he did centrally in that system yet.

    But he’s been earmarked and has already stamped his name in the middle – whether higher up or in between the holder and the playmaker. The one advantage playing him on the flanks, not just his ability to play the clever ball, is his dribbling, which I don’t think is utilised enough in the centre (but he can bring there anyway).

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