Benayoun: fine run has helped fans forget big-name exits


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The Independent Online

Yossi Benayoun last night insisted that Arsenal's recovery from their dismal start to the season has enabled the club's supporters to forget the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer. The Israeli midfielder's claim may have come at an inopportune time in the wake of the Gunners' 3-1 defeat to Olympiakos on Tuesday but they had already won Champions League Group F.

Arsenal's journey to the last 16 was relatively tranquil compared to other English clubs and has been allied to improved domestic form. The Gunners are fifth in the Premier League after a run of six wins from their last seven matches as they repair the damage caused by a woeful start.

Fabregas and Nasri (pictured right, respectively) as well as Gaël Clichy, were the highest profile departures, with Benayoun among five arrivals in the final throes of the summer window who initially struggled to adapt as Arsenal lost four of their opening seven league games. But he believes the healing process is sufficiently advanced for the club's supporters to now consign that dark period to history.

"You lose two of your biggest stars – Fabregas and Nasri are both great players – and maybe, I don't know, the fans expected bigger names [to replace them]," Benayoun said. "But all the names we bought on the last day have proved themselves and we are playing much better, winning games and I think the supporters now understand we have a good team and they have forgotten the other players.

"We are only two points behind Chelsea now, a few points from Tottenham and Man U are not far so I think we have proved ourselves."

Benayoun scored Arsenal's solitary goal in Greece on only his fifth start for the club following a season-long loan from Chelsea. The 31-year-old is yet to start a league match for his temporary employers.

"The Arsenal fans are definitely yet to see my best," said Benayoun. "I was lucky to be in midfield for the biggest teams in England – I played for a big club like Liverpool so I think I can play for any club.

"But they say you don't change a winning team and we are on a good run so it is very difficult to get into the team. The only thing I can do is to wait for any chance I get."

The goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and the left-back Andre Santos will be unavailable for Saturday's league match at home to Everton after sustaining knee and ankle injuries respectively against the Greek champions.