Thursday, 8 December 2011

Yossi Benayoun’s performance against Olympiacos proved he’s worth having around

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Today Joss Bennett looks at Yossi Benayoun's performance against Olympiacos.

As the two Manchester clubs crashed out of the Champions League group stages and Chelsea scraped through on the final day, Arsenal were able to make numerous changes for an inevitably tricky trip to the Greek capital.

Amongst a second-string team were several players with a point to prove; Yossi Benayoun, Marouane Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin have all found chances hard to come by this season, but only one of them really put himself into Wenger’s thoughts.

Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun was one of few Arsenal players on the night to look dangerous when The Gunners had the ball. Benayoun grabbed his side’s only goal of the night with a superb volleyed finish and linked well with Marouane Chamakh and Andre Santos throughout the game, before almost setting up the equaliser for Tomas Rosicky.

Despite starting on the left side of a three-pronged attack behind lone striker Chamakh, this is rarely where Benayoun was when he had the ball. In typical fashion for a winger at Arsenal, Benayoun tended to drift inside into the attacking midfield zone usually occupied by the ineffective Arshavin.

From here, Benayoun was able to link up with the influential Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who once again impressed against difficult opposition) and the improve Marouane Chamakh as the whole game appeared to slant towards one side of the pitch (both sides made 43% of their attacks down Arsenal’s right side*).

As well as linking up with others, Benayoun himself looked dangerous on the ball; completing one dribble attempt and one through ball in addition to his two shots (one on target) and two key passes*.

Benayoun’s off the ball movement was part of a grand scheme of players swapping positions and moving freely around the pitch when Arsenal had the ball, in part started by Chamberlain.

The star of the England U21 side frequently pushed up from his position on the right wing to take up a more advanced position in line with Chamakh. Arshavin then moved wide to cover an important area of the field, and Benayoun in turn drifted into the Russian’s position.

Finally, left back André Santos’ naturally attacking personality meant he moved forward and became more of a left winger – completing two key passes and two dribble attempts as well as attempting two crosses (completing one)*.

However, despite the large percentage of attacks coming down one side, Benayoun was clearly aware of the threat on the other side of the pitch from the home side. Unlike Arshavin and Chamberlain, Benayoun worked tirelessly to track back and cover for André Santos’ attacking runs; making four tackles, one interception and two clearances*.

On a night of few chances and highlights for the boys in red and white, Benayoun provided a moment of real quality to get Arsenal back into the game – a goal his hard-working performance clearly deserved. Compared to Arshavin, the choice between Benayoun and the Russian for Gervinho’s back-up seems an easy choice for Arsene Wenger to make.

Although arguably the best performance from the Israeli so far, it was by no means his only decent performance. With few chances up for grabs in an in-form Arsenal side, Benayoun will hope he has at least asserted himself enough to earn a place on the bench ahead of the continually ineffective Arshavin.

*OPTA statistics courtesy of

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

Video produced by CWDailyGoonerCulann Davies is founder, head writer and video editor of Arsenal blog CWDailyGooner - a site for all Gooners interested in analysis of Arsenal's first teamers, youngsters and loanees in video form. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at CWDailyGooner.

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