This discussion is going to be interesting, because I'm not entirely sure how much Benayoun pleases/angers (delete as appropiate) Chelsea fans. Yossi Benayoun is a player that really has slipped under the radar since joining Chelsea in the summer transfer window of 2010 as Ancelotti's second major signing. At a measly price of £5.5m million he was seen as a bargain replacement for the outgoing Joe Cole.
Unfortunately, despite a bright start for the Blues, including scoring one of six neat goals against Wigan, he ruptured his tendon in September playing against Newcastle in the Carling Cup - he didn't return until the 9th April against Wigan, and this really was too late to have any sort of impact, despite optimism he may have been the one to pour rain on Fernando Torres' goal drought.
Then Carlo Ancelotti was given the boot at the end of the season and in came Andre Villas-Boas, who promised a clean slate for all the players. Despite coming up with what surely has to be the biggest waste of a spectacular goal (it was in pre-season) and generously donating the number ten shirt to Juan Mata, he was sent across London to rivals Arsenal, who signed him on loan for the season, where he would go on to fulfill the same bench warming role he would have at Chelsea, although the Gunners probably offered him more oppurtunities.
As it turns out, at this point of the season, Benayoun's really had any sort of decent time on the pitch. He's only made five starts, and only one of these has come in the Premier League. Despite this, he's managed to score three goals (including a crucial winner against Aston Villa) and set up one goal. Considering that in playing in fringe games he would have played with fringe players, and when these include Marouane Chamakh even Xavi would struggle to get some assists. WhoScored.com (which, incidentally, is an excellent site) has ranked his average 'score' for the season at 6.39, which is decent numbers, although very inconclusive.
So Benayoun's had a fractured career since moving on from Liverpool. What's this got to do with anything? Well, considering that Chelsea weren't keen on making any signings in January due to inflation (wonder how they worked that out), and having lost one of their "creative" attackers in Nicolas Anelka, the question has been begging at me for days: should we have bought Benayoun back from loan?
Now obviously, there's a lot to consider. Firstly, I'm pretty sure both parties have to accept a termination of any loan (let me know if this is wrong) and so we have to consider whether Arsenal would really want to let Benayoun come back. Despite his relative lack of game time, he actually represents a key part of the Arsenal squad in providing cover in positions the Gunners are reasonably flimsy. Gervinho and Theo Walcott only have Andrei Arshavin* and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who was completely untested before his recent performances) to deputize should one of them be absent.
*Think about that. Andre Arshavin.
So in this sense, had one of the two first-choice gone down injured, Benayoun is a decent option to have replacing them. On the flipside though, now Anelka's gone, and Kalou's actually being allowed to play football, for the Ivory Coast, Chelsea don't have a lot of whole depth in the wide positions. Hence why Mata has had to play on the left so often despite clearly being more suited to the center, and hence why Ramires has had to a few games on the right wing.
Secondly, Benayoun simply represents a decent option in terms of his attributes. His main strengths are his passing and eye for creativity, something that many fans are craving for at present. He may not have been a success, but it would have been nice to have that option. Also, in games where a bit of experience and tactical positioning is required (i.e: when Sturridge doesn't need to be on the pitch), Benayoun more than fills that brief, as evidenced by his success under tactically-focused Benitez and Ancelotti's remarks when he signed the Israeli:
"Joe Cole is quicker than Benayoun but Yossi is better tactically. He understands what I tell him. Yossi is a very intelligent player"
Benayoun's intelligence leads to him being a very versatile player, with the option of playing anywhere in an attacking band of midfielders. In this he'd also be an extremely useful option in enabling Mata to move centrally, or giving Juan a little rest.
You still have to consider the negatives however. Firstly it needs to be remembered that, as we know, Benayoun is a pretty injury-prone player. Also, at thirty-one he hardly represents anything of the youth-driven movement Villas-Boas wants to implement at Chelsea. Finally, the fact that Benayoun even moved to Arsenal in the first place suggests that all was not that well between player and club; but we could have also have received a nice financial reimbursement too. We don't know.
Oh, and I nearly forgot this, tweeted after the 5-3 match.
What a great win today!!! Well done guys!— Yossi Benayoun (@YossiBenayoun15) October 29, 2011
So in essence, Benayoun remains an interesting figure. Perhaps the option to terminate his loan was never an option, but it's always fun to discuss something other than Torres vs. Drogba. Your opinions below...