Why Mikel Arteta Is Keeping Hold Of Mohamed Elneny This Season
By Rob Worthington
As per Chris Wheatley, Mo Elneny will be staying in North London this season. The Egyptian international has impressed when given opportunities by Mikel Arteta and seems to have persuaded our Spanish manager that he can play a role for Arsenal this season. This one very much has the ingredients to become a 'zero to hero' type story.
This is not to suggest Elneny will be a star for Arsenal. The man who was loaned to Beşiktaş last season certainly has his limitations as a midfielder. His passing isn't particularly progressive or expansive and he also lacks mobility. However, not every midfielder can be as flashy a Kevin De Bruyne-type figure. Every team needs a player who can straightforwardly do the simple things well. That is what Elneny specialises in.
Last night against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup, Elneny registered a 92.6% pass accuracy, completed 6 out of his 7 long passes and regained possession for his side on 3 occasions. Brilliant return from the Egyptian in these three departments. His main task this season has been to keep things ticking over in Arsenal's engine room and that's exactly what he's done for Mikel Arteta.
Against Fulham on the opening day of the season, the 28-year-old looked at home in Arsenal's midfield. He played a crucial role in the build-up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's first Premier League goal of the season and quite simply looked like he'd never been away. Elneny played six passes into the final third and only Holding, Gabriel and Tierney completed more ball carries than our Egyptian midfielder. Honestly, he didn't deserve to lose his place against West Ham on Saturday.
A key reason Arteta would've chosen to keep hold of Elneny this season is due to his consistent performance levels. Granted, he never really delivers a ten out of ten performance. However, he always delivers at least a six. A lot can be said for players who can do this on a regular basis. This is part of the reason Jordan Henderson has kept his place at Liverpool over the course of the last couple of seasons in spite of the plethora of quality midfield options at Jurgen Klopp's disposal.
Another factor that would've been taken into consideration by our manager is Elneny's discipline and experience. I'd say there are two players in the current Arsenal squad of a similar profile to Elneny: Granit Xhaka and Mattéo Guendouzi. Like Elneny, both players thrive when asked to keep things simple. Xhaka is of course a very senior figure in the Arsenal squad but it's obvious we're often over-reliant on his experience. Meanwhile, Guendouzi still seems to be surplus to requirements under Mikel Arteta in spite of his return to training.
Elneny may not be of the same quality of these two players but his level-head must be attractive for Arteta. We consistently struggled last term if Xhaka was absent. Part of the reason for this is because we miss his presence and experience in the middle of the park when he's unavailable. Yesterday at the King Power Stadium, Elneny showed he could at least partially fill that void when required to do so. For the first time in a while, it didn't look like we missed Xhaka.
Hopefully, the potential arrival of Thomas Partey will help to nullify this issue further. He's another player who would add experience and presence to our midfield. If we do manage to land Partey's signature, heading into the remainder of the 20/21 campaign knowing that he has three players who can offer him stability in central areas should somewhat suppress Mikel Arteta's concerns about the base of his midfield.
After Elneny's opening day performance at Craven Cottage, Mikel Arteta recounted that he knows what the Egypt International "can give us and how willing he is to improve. Today he was phenomenal". Doubtlessly, he won't be one of the stars of the season for Arsenal. However, Elneny could yet still play a key role under Arteta this season in spite of the fact many believed he had played his last game in an Arsenal shirt just a few weeks ago. Keep proving the doubters wrong, Mo.
P.S, Elneny is better than Jorginho. We don't need another Chelsea reject...