Saturday, 30 June 2012

Almunia's final pay-day -Denilson set to return -Yossi's goodbye -Wilshere woe

Morning Gooners.

It's June 30th already. Where has this year gone? It's a date which every professional footballer fears. The date when the vast majority of contracts end. Why it's June 30th and not May 31st is beyond me but it means we get to say goodbye to two first team players who will officially leave the club at midnight.

The first is Yossi Benayoun, who has spent the season on loan from Chelsea. It was very much a deal which happened out of the blue. After signing in the summer of 2010, Yossi had an injury plagued campaign which meant he 10 appearances for Roman Abramovich's club. When Andre Villas Boas was appointed manager last summer he didn't fancy the Israeli and was deemed surplus to requirements.

That meant that Arsene Wenger could come in and pick Yossi up on loan for the season. It left a few people scratching their heads as to why we needed to bring in a 31-year-old who had just come back from a six month long injury. What would he add to our squad?

Well I think we're all glad Wenger made that call. Yossi was the model professional. Working hard in training and setting an excellent example to the younger members of our squad of what a model professional should act like around London Colney and then seizing his chance when he was given it.

It was the effort he exuded on the pitch which took him into the hearts of Gooners. You can't accuse Yossi of not giving his all when he played. And looking at his season statistics this morning, I'm surprised by how little he really played.

He made 23 appearances in all competitions, scoring six goals and creating one assist. But those contributions, especially the goals - think the winning header against Aston Villa in December, think the opening goal in our final home game of the season against Norwich and then the goal in the final game of the season at West Brom which sent us on our way to third... they were invaluable.

I remember seeing the team sheet for the north London derby at the Grove in February and seeing the manager had picked Yossi. The decision was a bit out of the blue but how right Arsene Wenger was. Yossi's performance that day was exactly what this team needed. A player who would never give up.

Benayoun took to Twitter yesterday to say his goodbyes:
"My loan spell with Arsenal will be officially over tomorrow. I want to say again a big thanks to the fans and the club. For the opportunity and the great support and I wish this club all the very best!"
A classy goodbye from a classy player. I would have liked to have seen Arsene Wenger keep him for another season but can understand the reasons why he's decided not to.

So Yossi, we wish you the best for where ever the future takes you. We were privileged to have you at Arsenal and your next club will be very lucky to have a fine professional like you as part of their club.

The other farewell today is to Manuel Almunia who leaves Arsenal after eight seasons at the club, making a total of 175 appearances. There have been a few good times but unfortunately very many lows for the Spaniard.

A well liked man around the training ground, who never spoke out against the club even in his final season with us when he didn't make a single appearance, will be off to pastures new when his contract expires tonight.

Almunia's final game in an Arsenal shirt for the first team was in a 0-0 draw against Blackburn at the Grove in April 2011. Since then we've paid him £3.9m to do nothing for 455 days!

Also leaving the club are young professionals: George Brislen-Hall, Sean McDermott, Gavin Hoyte and Rhys Murphy. Second-year scholars Alban Bunjaku, Jeffrey Monakana and James Campbell have been released by the club as well.

One player who is coming back to the club is Denilson. The midfielder has been on loan at Sao Paulo for the season and his contract with them is up. The Brazilian club want to keep him but claim they can't afford the £6m Arsenal want for him.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Denilson. His future more than likely is away from the club but that doesn't mean we should accept anything less than what we value the player at.

Meanwhile Gareth Southgate has been speaking of the need to not put too much pressure on Jack Wilshere as he is just one player when what England really need is five players with the same skills as Jack.

Southgate says all the expectation being heaped on Jack's shoulders is only going to end badly. And no one want Wilshere woe.

By all accounts Jack is training hard at Colney and hopes to be fit for the new season. I for one can't wait to see him back in an Arsenal shirt.

And finally there are rumours in Italy that we've reignited interest in goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano. These rumours first started doing the rounds two years ago. I suspect someone is looking for a new contract. Plus, do we really want another Manuel Almunia look-a-like in the squad?

That's it for today. More tomorrow.
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