Player of the Week: Mohamed Elneny

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Overall it’s been an improved week from Arsenal, albeit not in all aspects. I still think the team is a bit all over the place, and I still think Wenger’s at the heart of the problems.

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But I doubt anything is going to change, not soon enough for next season anyway, and no banner protest is going to change that. I think we’re stuck for the time being. On the positive side, Arsenal do like to put in the occasional interesting performance amidst all the doom and gloom. The 2-2 draw away to Tottenham being a strange mix up of inevitability and a weird display of character. I wasn’t expecting a fightback and come full time a draw was neither good or bad really. Despite all of this, I was pleased to see Elneny handed a shock Premier League début and I was further pleased by his impressive, controlled performance, which his counterpart unfortunately lacked. Elneny is player of the week.

The most encouraging thing regarding our new midfielder is how he wasn’t fazed by the occasion of a North London Derby. Add this to the fact that Wenger has waited until now to play him seems rather odd and it doesn’t make sense. But he’s here now, that’s the main thing. And with his inclusion comes a much-needed balance into the Arsenal set up. The clear difference to him and Coquelin is the Egyptian’s calmness under pressure and willingness to take the ball and shift it on. I rarely saw him make a wrong or stupid pass, which bodes well for the future. Not only did he play with a level head, his awareness around the pitch was fantastic. He’s only 23, so there’s plenty of room for development. Showing this amount of maturity already shows bigger and better things on the horizon, providing he doesn’t check into Arsenal’s state of the art medical facility. Elneny’s first instinct in the deep midfield role was to get the ball and move it on as quickly as possible, as to avoid pressure and kick-start counters. This is something he excelled at all throughout the match, always looking to move the ball forward, but without sacrificing the awareness to pass it back when necessary. The real improvement with having Elneny in the centre though was his positional control, and the speed of his passing, speed being fundamental to Arsenal’s approach play.

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Passing isn’t the only thing you want from a defensive midfielder, you need intelligence and awareness, and this is something evidently shown as the Egyptian all but ran the game until Arsenal went down to ten. And I do mean that Elneny was running the show on his full début. He was in all the right places, he moved about the pitch with a refreshing mobility, and was always there to block or hack the ball away. Despite all of this, I don’t think he’s the destroyer Arsenal still need, but he does provide a handy option, given his athleticism and assured control in the centre of the park. I don’t know where I’d place him, but he’s probably closest to a box to box midfielder or a utility player.

Elneny also means we can play Ramsey out on the wing, or wait, no we can’t. Yep, Arsenal were ravaged by injuries on Tuesday night. There it is again: the blinding inevitability of it all. It’s a shame in retrospect because for a moment Arsenal looked to have sorted their balance issues out with Elneny in the centre and Ramsey working hard on the wings. I imagine this will see the return of the ever impressive Joel Campbell, again displaying his mix of energy and talent on Tuesday with an influential shift. Another name who deserves to be ahead of the likes of Walcott is Alex Iwobi, who at 19, looks a pretty special prospect. He’s a natural with the ball at his feet and he carries it the way someone like Rosicky or Wilshere would, and with his height and pace you’ve got a really talented footballer in there somewhere. As for Arsenal’s defence? Well, it’s not looking great. Anyway, it’s been a good week for Elneny.

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