In lightning quick speed, the month of June has waltzed past the football world and there have certainly been some events and occurrences that have kept the lovers of the beautiful game occupied.
From an Arsenal perspective, in June the Gooners witnessed their ambassadors representing their nations in the European Championships. Each Gunner had his own weight of expectation placed on his shoulders. Some stepped up their game, while others fell by the road side.
The month of June also coincided with the arrival of two new attacking pieces in Arsene Wenger’s jigsaw puzzle for the forthcoming season, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
Podolski was watched closely by Arsenal fans in the Euros, but he had an average tournament in my opinion. It was good to see him cap his 100th game for Germany with a goal against Nicklas Bendtner’s Denmark. I must, however, commend the German forward for his disciplined performances for his nation.
He supported Philip Lahm admirably on the left hand flank and I’m looking forward to seeing him wear red and white. Has he selected a jersey number yet?
Giroud, on the other hand, was a peripheral figure for Les Blues. His manager, Laurent Blanc, preferred the 4-2-3-1 tactical setup, with Karim Benzema spearheading the attack. Giroud’s only telling competition in the tournament would have been in France’s final group fixture against Sweden.
He came off the bench to glance his header wide with basically his first touch of the game. It was a moment that would have made the greatest striker that ever lived, Nicklas Bendtner, proud. He came off the bench for Arsenal and scored a goal in 1.8 seconds, making him the fastest ever scoring substitute for the Gunners.
However, today being the end of the month of June, also marks the day many teams wave their goodbyes to those players that have joined new employers elsewhere or else that were not given contract renewals.
At Arsenal, some youngsters have failed to impress the club enough to hand them new deals. George Brislen-Hall, Sean McDermott, Gavin Hoyte, Rhys Murphy, Jeffrey Monakana, James Campbell and Alban Bunjaku (Sold to Sevilla) have been axed.
Two senior players, Manuel Almunia and Yossi Benayoun have also been shown the door by the club.
The former was further down the club’s pecking order for selection so he was freed to loosen up the club’s wage bill. He has even admitted that he’s too lazy to move out of London, so he’ll probably be on the hunt for a new club in the capital. The latter honored his loan contract with the club and has gone back to his parent club, Chelsea, after filling Arsenal hearts with fond memories.
He is remembered not only because of his long Israeli locks, beak of a nose or sultry dribbling skills, but also because Yossi Benayoun made 25 appearances for Arsenal and had six goals to show for it.
He opened his Arsenal account in a 3-1 win over Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup (now Capitol One Cup). He followed it up two months later with a stunning volley in a dead-rubber Champions League group stage match against Olympiakos. He headed home Arsenal’s winner from a corner kick at Villa Park and waited for four months before putting the nail on Wolves' coffin with an emphatic finish in Arsenal’s 3-0.
In his final footballing month with the club, he scored two vital strikes against Norwich and West Brom, thereby contributing immensely to his team's cause in their bid to play Champions League football in the forthcoming season.
Benayoun confirmed his exit from Arsenal using the social networking platform, Twitter.
At the age of 32, Benayoun was certainly going to struggle for a place in the first team against the younger and more energetic folks, so he did what was best for him and waved his goodbyes to Arsenal. I don’t see him playing much at Chelsea either, but a transfer to a mid-table Premier League outfit or other decent teams in Europe won’t do him any harm.
His career path has seen him play for Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Maccabi Haifa, Racing de Santander, West Ham United, Liverpool, Chelsea and of course, Arsenal. I wish Benayoun all the best in his future endeavors and I believe that he’s going to be a Gunner at heart.
You can follow him on Twitter @YossiBenayoun15.
Moving on, Arsenal, like every other European juggernaut out there, is going to have its fair share of ambassadors representing their nations in the forthcoming Olympic Games.
Stuart Pearce omitted David Beckham from Team Great Britain. The overage wild cards went to Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards. However, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs have also made the provisional list with Henri Lansbury being another contender for selection.
Elsewhere, Johan Djourou, Ryo Miyaichi and Park Chu-Young also got call ups from their respective nations.
Djourou was featured sparingly for Arsenal last season, so the Olympic Games with give him a chance to get some games under his belt before returning to the club. Miyaichi had a successful spell at Bolton, but his future still remains in the balance. I, like many other Gooners out there, can only hope that Arsenal secures another season-long loan spell for him.
Park Chu-Young on the other hand, can use the Olympic Games as an avenue to put himself in the market. He has clearly been a failed project at Arsenal and a move elsewhere will be in everyone’s best interest.
Finally, I’ll share some transfer tidbits buzzing the Arsenal world in the past days.
Starting with potential arrivals, Arsenal has been linked with Italian shot stopper, Emiliano Viviano. Wojciech Szczesny is the club’s chief custodian between the sticks, but his deputies, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone, seek moves elsewhere. An ideal replacement is needed in the goalkeeping department.
Youngsters like Emiliano Martinez and James Shea are waiting patiently for their chances too, but Viviano will give Szczesny a run for his money. An air of complacency crept into his game in the tail end of last season.
Moving over to potential departures, rumors linking Robin van Persie to countless galaxies beyond have not stopped. This time, it’s the oil-rich Paris St. Germain that have emerged as the new suitors seeking his signature. I have read so many articles regarding this van Persie saga and it’s becoming tiring.
All I can say is that Arsenal has done well to sign two forwards that will add depth to the squad if he stays, or act as adequate cover if he decides to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
However, Olivier Giroud has stated that he’ll prefer to play alongside van Persie, instead of replacing him.
Andrey Arshavin is another player many Gooners want to see leave the club, but his proposed move to Zenit could be in jeopardy because his infamous quotes after Russia’s exit caused an outrage in his nation. There are even calls for the diminutive Russian to be stripped of the captaincy and to be retired from international football.
Denilson is also on the spotlight, as the Sao Paulo hierarchy would like to secure another loan spell for the much-maligned Brazilian. They claim that they want Denny back after watching him in Brazil and were “impressed by his performances”.
Arsenal is only allowed to register 25 players for the forthcoming campaign, so the sooner the club gets rid of its "deadwood," the better for everyone involved.
Besides, if player arrivals have been conducted very early this season, player departures should follow suit.
This article is also featured on Toni Okike's Arsenal blog, Gooner Daily.