Who is Mohamed Elneny?
Barely known outside the Swiss Super League, the Egyptian midfielder is reportedly very likely to join the Arsenal as soon as the transfer window re-opens on January, 1st – with several media already talking about fee agreed, contract negotiations et cetera…
Whether it is true or not – and I personally believe that this could be a smokescreen to protect some more complex deals – Mohamed Elneny’s arrival could surely provide some very-welcome depth to our midfield unit and give Arsène Wenger some extra options in an area where injuries have it very hard.
Mohamed Elneny is one of the fans’ favourite at FC Basel despite not being the kind of player that usually captures the supporters’ imagination; when you witnessed skilled players like Shaqiri, Xhaka, Salah and Embolo making their break-through and create moments of magic out of nowhere, it is difficult to appreciate the hard-working man in the middle of the park – but everyone at the Sankt Jakob-Park acknowledges the importance of Mohamed Elneny.
He arrived as a complete stranger, on loan, and slowly grew-up in the shadow of his fellow Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah, to finally become one of the first names on the team sheet – whether it was under Murat Yakin, Paulo Sousa or Urs Fischer.
Also a regular for Egypt national team after participating into the Olympics in London with Egypt U23 team, at 23 years of age Mohamed Elneny has plenty of room for improvement and is far from being a finished product.
His style of play
Those who expect the Egyptian to be a replacement for Francis Coquelin will be disappointed since Mohamed Elneny is not the tough guy who loves to jump into a tackle – despite being physically strong; he’s far better at intercepting a pass or anticipate a movement and be at the right place in the right moment.
If you want to compare him to an Arsenal player, you should imagine a younger Mikel Arteta playing deep in his half and distributing the ball around the pitch – with an eye for long balls and the energy to bomb forward and support the attacking manoeuvre.
Very tidy on the ball, the Egyptian is FC Basel set-piece taker and their fulcrum in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Mohamed Elneny could fit quite well in our system but will surely need time to know his teammates and know the league – something I am not sure we can offer, at the moment.
A long term replacement for Mikel Arteta, who will be out of contract in June and seem on the verge of switching from playing to coaching, Mohamed Elneny could easily be one of those typical Arsène Wenger’s signings: unknown, cheap and young with a lot to offer.
Wrapping this up, my advice would be to resist the temptation and not judge this signing by the cover – if it happens, of course.
He might not be the high-profile signing in the shape of Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Čech but Mohamed Elneny is one of those rare players whose importance is felt when he’s not on the pitch; it took time to FC Basel fans to appreciate the qualities of the Egyptian – who definitely benefitted from other players’ brilliance to grew in stature within the team – but they finally understood the qualities of this quiet playmaker and will surely be disappointed if he leaves.