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Where Does Yossi Benayoun Fit?

Yossi Benayoun was brought in to replace Joe Cole, but he hasn't had the chance to play the same role as the departed winger.
Yossi Benayoun was brought in to replace Joe Cole, but he hasn't had the chance to play the same role as the departed winger.

Yossi Benayoun was my man of the match against Zilina, and although the rest of you ended up voting for Michael Essien instead I'm sure you'll all agree that our new midfielder had a pretty spectacular game on Wednesday. Especially in the first half, Benayoun was everywhere, orchestrating the attack by evading his markers and playing devastating passes straight through the defence. He was directly responsible for the first and fourth goals, and while he didn't get on the scoresheet himself, it was an excellent match nonetheless.

So if Wednesday taught us that Yossi Benayoun can fill in admirably for Frank Lampard, does that mean we should expect to see him enter the midfield rotation alongside Lampard, Essien, and Ramires? Well, sure. But his role as a shuttler doesn't really bring out the best of Benayoun - he sees the ball a lot, and can work his passing magic, but one of his great abilities lies in flummoxing the opposition as he peels off from the touchline and jumps into the centre.

In many ways, Benayoun is Joe Cole. He doesn't have Cole's raw talent (few do), but to make up for it he has the tactical awareness and defensive discipline that the England man is sorely lacking. While Cole may claim that his best position is at the head of a midfield diamond, a) Chelsea do not and should not play the diamond and b) Cole historically has been at his best as a right winger in a 4-3-3.

The current started on the right is Nicolas Anelka, who's had a couple of good games and a few disappointments. Daniel Sturridge was trialed there against Zilina (Didier Drogba was suspended and the front line was juggled around as a result), but it clearly wasn't his best position. In fact, it's not really a good spot for a pure striker - they just don't seem to enjoy dragging full-backs across the pitch as much as midfielders do. Few would question that the left wing, inhabited by Florent Malouda, has been more effective than the right, which is an opinion supported by the number of goals coming from that side of the pitch. Malouda, of course, is midfielder, while the others trialed on the wings have all been converted strikers.

Might Yossi Benayoun have earned a chance to occasionally start on the right side in the third band of a 4-3-3? My feeling is that Anelka has been relatively anonymous too often, and Chelsea are underperforming down that whole side. Granted, we've had issues at right-back as well, and I'm not calling for Benayoun to start every match there, I just think it would be an interesting experiment to see whether the Israeli really fill the Joe Cole role for Chelsea.

If he can, we have a player who could quite easily play a quality backup role at four positions in Chelsea's preferred formation, which is a special buy indeed.

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