Labeling a £5 million signing crucial is not exactly the norm when it comes to the amount of money big Premier League clubs spend during transfer windows. Nevertheless, Arsenal’s purchase of Mohamed Elneny from Basel for that same sum could in fact be a very important signing when looking at the north London outfit’s title hopes.
The Gunners are currently without midfielders Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky, although the latter recently returned to full training. With an upcoming fixture list over the next six weeks that includes Stoke City (away), Chelsea, Leicester City, Barcelona and Manchester United (away), adding depth in the middle of the pitch was certainly needed.
While the team has actually climbed to the top of the table since the loss of Coquelin, Arsenal’s defense has been under significantly more pressure since their enforcer went down. According to Opta, the Gunners have conceded 50% more shots on goal and have given up 1.3 goals per game in matches in which Coquelin has missed. This is compared to 0.8 goals allowed per match when the defensive midfielder is fit.
Admittedly, Mathieu Flamini has not been awful since taking over for Coquelin. However, Elneny is a more dynamic player at this stage in their respective careers. The addition of the Egyptian international will seemingly give the Gunners more depth in the middle of the pitch and possibly more stability as well. Along with playing in the holding role, Elneny can also move forward as more of a “box-to-box” midfielder (think Aaron Ramsey, or Wilshere).
Additionally, Elneny also has experience against fellow Premier League clubs. During his time in Switzerland, the 23-year-old midfielder has faced Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur thanks to both Champions League and Europa League tournaments. In the seven European games against the trio of English opponents, Elneny’s Basel team only lost two matches in which the new Gunner appeared in (both Europa League semifinal matches against Chelsea in 2013).
Following the announcement of the Elneny deal, manager Arsene Wenger spoke on what Gunner fans can expect from their new signing:
“Overall I believe he will be a good addition to the squad. He is 23 years old and has already got Champions League, Europa League and Swiss League experience. He is a player who is adaptable in midfield. He can be box-to-box and be a holding midfielder so that is for us very promising. We wanted a versatile player and I wanted a player who can play defensive but can as well play to box-to-box.”
The Frenchman continued, “His strengths are his technical level, his vision, his intelligence, his disciplined attitude and his physical attitude to compete at a high level. I think he has the physical qualities to play at the top level.”
Elneny’s role with the club will likely increase in the future due to the fact that both Mikel Arteta and Flamini will be out of contract following the conclusion of the current campaign. Short-term, however, the midfielder has already trained with his new teammates and is in contention to face Stoke City on Sunday.
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