Mohamed Elneny was fairly unknown when Arsene Wenger signed him for Arsenal in 2016 from FC Basel for £5m, and the Egyptian has shown to be a good example that you get what you pay for at least until this season.
The 28-year-old midfielder was on loan at Turkish side Besiktas last season because Arsenal couldn’t find a club to pay the fee they wanted for Elneny’s sale, so when the Egyptian returned this term, many expected him to be one of the first out of the door.
However, to many people’s surprise, Elneny was kept at the club after impressing manager Mikel Arteta in pre-season, and the Spaniard said he is really happy with what the returning midfielder has brought to the team.
After Arsenal’s opening day victory against Fulham, Arteta said: “Mo has been excellent since day one in training. He is a player that I know really well because we played together. I know what he can give us and how willing he is to improve. Today he was phenomenal.”
This is not the first time a player’s performances in training have kept them at the club under Arteta either, with Eddie Nketiah’s excellent displays in January showing his manager that he shouldn’t go out on loan after returning from Leeds United.
Whilst Elneny’s superb displays behind the scenes seem to have helped keep him in North London, the Arsenal fans got their first real taste of why the Egyptian stayed when the 28-year-old dominated the midfield with new signing Thomas Partey in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
The Egyptian recorded an 89% pass completion rate, making 62 passes, five ball recoveries and three interceptions. However, what is more astounding is how Arsenal’s midfield duo out ran, and outplayed, United’s four-man midfield, leading them to change formation in the second half. Despite having half the men, Arsenal dominated the central areas, and that is a huge credit to Elneny and Partey in particular.
When the line-up was first announced, there was a lot of confusion and anger as to why Elneny was included, however, his performance on Sunday proved many people wrong.
During the Egyptian’s time at the club, Elneny’s performances have been filled with sideways and backwards passes and a lack of creativity, however under Arteta’s guidance, the midfielder’s game has continued to progress.
Even though Elneny’s previous Arsenal managers, such as Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Freddie Ljungberg couldn’t get the best out of him, maybe Mikel Arteta is the one to bring out the potential that Wenger saw when he brought him to the club four years ago.