Benayoun relishing Arsenal challenge

September 1, 2011
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Exclusive: Yossi Benayoun is relishing the challenge of helping Arsenal climb the Premiership table and play a key role in their Champions League campaign.

In his first interview since signing a season-long loan at the Emirates from Chelsea, the Israel captain looked relaxed following a whistle-stop trip to London which saw him make a 10-hour round trip from Israel.

“I am very happy to have gone to a club like Arsenal,” he said.

“They are a very big club and have given me a big opportunity and big challenge.

“I am looking forward to meeting my new teammates and friends and start a new challenge in my career.”

Benayoun has been preparing for Israel’s two crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers against Greece and Croatia.

He said: “It was difficult to have to come back to England and miss a practice session with my Israel teammates. But it was only one session - this has never happened before (having to miss time with national team to complete a transfer), but I had to do it; that’s the (nature of the) transfer window as the opportunity came up to sign with Arsenal.”

Luis Fernandez, the Israel manager, was dealt a double blow on the eve of the match at home to current Group F leaders Greece.

He said: “We have lost two players to injury; Toto Tamuz has a fever and Maor Melikson has open stitches.

“We are playing a very good team who haven’t been beaten; have scored eight times and conceded only three.

“We are dealing with the weather and have tried to adjust to it by training at 4pm, which is the kick off time.”

“Greece deserve respect,” Fernandez said. “Remember they were champions of Europe in 2004. We know we must concentrate and play like we did in beating Georgia and must not make mistakes like against Ivory Coast.

“We have won the last three games and that has given us confidence. We are a young team with a few veteran players like Dudu Awat, Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben-Haim who will help us tomorrow.”

Last updated: 3:31pm, September 1 2011