Scout Report: Who is Mohamed Elneny?
Seeing Arsenal linked with numerous names in a January transfer window is nothing out of the ordinary. Seeing the club actually follow up interest with an official bid at this melancholy time of year, however, is practically unheard of.
All too often have the Gunners been rumoured to sign an awe-inspiring wonderkid at the season’s half-way mark, only for the deal to fall through and for Wenger to snap up an aged train-wreck on a short-term loan deal.
Plagued with injuries at present, though, Wenger’s squad looks close to being rejuvenated by a new addition in the form of 23-year-old Egyptian Mohamed Elneny. The midfielder is currently plying his trade in the Swiss league with Basel and is on the cusp of joining Arsenal for a fee thought to be in the region of £5 million.
So, as is the tradition when Arsenal are seldom close to signing someone, here is a report on the background of Elneny, as well as how he could fit into the North-London club’s current system.
Following a tiresome youth career with Cairo-based Al Ahly, the defensive midfielder started his professional career with El Mokawloon, where he racked up thirty-five appearances, scoring on two occasions.
After cementing his place in the first team, coupled with an impressive feature in the 2012 Olympics, Mohamed secured a switch to Basel in 2013, initially on a loan deal, which would later become permanent.
In the earlier stages of his career, Elneny portrayed exceptional drive and gumption to battle the early hours of the morning with his mother to travel up and down the country for matches and training sessions.
His determination in life is paralleled by his motivation on the pitch; Elneny poses great stamina and strength and is able to operate for long periods without the ball, regaining possession with his crunching challenges and high-intensity pressing.
During his tenure with Swiss outfit Basel, the midfield anchor helped the club to three consecutive league titles, meanwhile establishing a name on the continental stage.
This season, Elneny has managed six goals and two assists in 28 matches and looks on the verge of heading to the English capital to join up with Wenger and company.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The Egyptian international has earned the reputation of being a bit of a workhorse; a sentiment heightened by his run of 51 appearances last campaign, in which he netted five goals, playing in four different competitions.
While his seemingly godly immunity to injury will be music to the ears of Arsenal fans, his astute passing accuracy ensures he won’t be slowing down the fluidity of the Gunners’ game.
In the Europa League this term, he has clocked up an average pass accuracy of 92%, meanwhile showcasing his physical prowess with an average dual success of 55%.
Goals have been lacking from midfield for Wenger’s side this season, but Elneny’s deadeye at set-pieces, namely free-kicks, and his modest goal tallies to date provide reassurance that he could amend this deficiency.
That said, it does pose a slight element of risk, given the success of previous North African acquisitions by Premier League clubs.
A massive blot on Elneny’s copybook is his flair and dribbling on the ball. Although this may prove frustrating at times, it will mean that the 23-year-old is unlikely to monopolize possession and so the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez will still see as much, if not more, of the ball at their feet.
How he’ll fit in at Arsenal
In terms of where he will fit into the line-up, the current catalogue of injuries makes Wenger’s decision in the short-term a very easy one. Coquelin and Cazorla are both presently sidelined and there’s no doubting that the Gunners struggle when absent of a holding midfielder who can pull the strings from a deeper role.
Therefore, you’d expect Elneny to slot in front of the defence, although he’s not averse to playing a little higher up the pitch. This, ultimately, is why Arsenal pursued an interest to begin with; in order to provide cover and install depth into the squad as the club’s title challenge gathers momentum.
Given Elneny’s professional attitude, I doubt that the transition to the Premier League will phase him. As he is likely to be deployed in the defensive region of midfield, his lack of pace shouldn't be exposed too frequently and the deal may unfold as a bargain.
Very much like his French counterpart and potential soon-to-be team-mate Francis Coquelin, Elneny will focus on the more defensive aspects of a midfielder’s game.
Since summer 2013, the middle-man has missed just four games for Basel, underpinning yet again how seldom the Egyptian picks up a knock. Of course, such a reality could be horribly manipulated when he’s thrown into the intense whirlwind of the Premier League, but at present, his injury record is immaculate.
There’s no saying that Elneny’s role could, in fact, be very different at the Emirates. In fact, there’s no guaranteeing that he’ll be wearing an Arsenal shirt by the end of the week (his move is still subject to a work permit), but if he were to sign, his efficient and simplistic ball distribution, no-nonsense approach and fine eye for goal could render him a very influential figure in the heart of the Arsenal midfield.
Mohamed Elneny may be a little rough around the edges, but that hasn’t stopped Wenger before.