When Arsenal signed Mohamed Elneny from Swiss club Basel in January, many fans of the north London club were left feeling unfulfilled. After all, the 23-year-old Egyptian international is not considered a “world class” player, nor is he a household name in the soccer world. The Gunners reportedly only paid somewhere in the range of £5-£7 million for the defensive midfielder, hardly an earth-shattering transfer.
Nevertheless, Elneny has looked promising during his first seven weeks with the club. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has let his new player slowly adapt to the Gunners, having only just given Elneny his first Premier League start on Saturday. For his first inclusion in the starting XI during league play, Elneny’s first task was a massive north London derby against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Despite being given his first real test in such a big game, Elneny passed the test.
The midfielder didn’t score a goal, nor did he make a superb assist on the da. However, Elneny was neat and tidy in the space beside fellow defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin. The duo of defensive-minded players manning the middle of the pitch worked for the Gunners (that is until Coquelin was sent off following an awful attempt at a tackle in the second half). Since Santi Cazorla limped off of the pitch during a match in November, Arsenal have had a tough time replacing the tricky Spaniard.
Aaron Ramsey has mostly been implemented in the Cazorla role next to Coquelin, and while the Welshman has had some success, the Gunners look more potent with the star midfielder Cazorla in the lineup. With Ramsey playing in central midfield, Arsenal have only won two of their last eight Premier League matches. Although Ramsey is not the biggest issue with the club at the moment, he actually played very well out on the right flank against Spurs on Saturday, scoring a beautiful goal in the first half of the match at White Hart Lane.
Having both Coquelin and Elneny in central midfield against their rivals gave the Gunners defensive stability (especially with elite defender Laurent Koscielny sidelined). Though Arsenal did not create very many chances during the time that the match was 11 v. 11, the Gunners were up 1-0 at the point of Coquelin’s sending off in the 55th minute of the match.
Elneny is certainly more of an offensive threat than then straight defensive Coquelin. The fresh Arsenal signing is a versatile player that can be utilized just in front of the back four defenders, as well as more of a box-to-box midfielder too. If you had compare Elneny to other Gunner players, he would be somewhat of a concoction of Coquelin and Ramsey.