And What To Do with Mohamed ‘Marmite’ Elneny?
Here at Bergkampesque, it is fair to say, Mohamed Elneny is a ‘Marmite player’: many of us like him but quite a few feel that he is not an Arsenal-level player, or at best a squad player. We are an open blog and encourage exchanges of opinions in order to jointly get closer to the truth. To establish this we need to have a combination of various views and a willingness to allow doubt and modesty into our minds. The former is easy to establish on a blog but the latter is a more of a personal matter.
I was reading through Whoscored the other day and, to my surprise, Mohamed is currently second best in the league at completion of passes with a whopping 92.9% success rate. Elneny is of course a very tidy player and his main focus is on keeping it simply and safe in the (mostly) deeper role in midfield, but his passing is often done under pressure and he does like to make progressive passes whenever possible. He is also one of our best players in terms of defensive stats in terms of interceptions, blogs etc.
Many supporters will regard Elneny as an unexciting player, but I beg to differ. With many teams trying to pressure Arsenal when Leno has the ball, Elneny and Xhaka, and soon hopefully also Partey, need to have nerves of steel and a good awareness of all players on our half of the pitch. They also need a good first touch and of course a good ability to pass the ball sharply and yet with feeling: an over-hit and misdirected pass can easily be disastrous. So for Elneny to be one of the best passers in the league is really something to take note of.
I have said this before and know that not everybody agrees with it, but in a 4-2-3-1 formation it is important to have two solid DMs who form a great pair together. They may not set the team on-fire but have a pivotal role to play in the team. The more sexy attacking midfield play is likely to come mostly from the ‘3’ and the full backs/wing backs. If and when we play in this formations it is important to become compact and disciplined when we have to defend and push up together when we are building up an attack or want to apply pressure on the opponent in their own box. The double DM-pivot plays a vital part in this and I have been very impressed in Mohamed’s role in all of this. There is still a case for one of the DMs to help support the attack now and again, but for this an excellent intuitive relationship between the DMs is a prerequisite – and of course also the required skill-set, which, it is fair to say, Elneny is generally lacking (although he can sometimes surprise us all with a peach of a pass or through-ball). Elneny has a very good positional awareness and reads the game well, and quietly he has become important to Arteta.
Now the biggest question is what to do with Mohamed if and when Partey is fully fit to return?
I have no doubt that Partey is technically an upgrade to the Egyptian Mr Tidy and our signing from Atletico Madrid is yet to make a real impact on the team. We have hardly seen the man in action but it looks like he is close to a return now. A fully fit Partey will have to play and it is most likely that he will be paired with Xhaka, who may not be loved by every Arsenal fan but has played almost constantly under all three Arsenal managers. There is no doubt in my mind that Arteta rates him highly (and secretly is his captain on the pitch).
I am a big fan of Xhaka too (which is well known here) but also open to a combo of Partey-Elneny, at least in some games. Yet I am mostly looking forward to the pairing of Xhaka and Partey, even though this may need some time to properly gel into a lean and mean Double-DM machine. Elneny is the ideal back up and is likely to be able to play well with either of them. Of course we need more depth in midfield as these positions often suffer from injuries and suspensions, so another question is who can be our ‘fourth’ DM?
But that is side question for now; the main question to BK regulars as well as readers who have not yet commented (you are very welcome!) for this post is: what to do with Elneny; should he be first choice for the Double-DM-pivot or back-up? Or should he even be sold for a better player?