Player to Leave
Mohamed Elneny #35
Position: CDM / CM
Price: £5-7 million (FC Basel)
Wages: £50,000 per week
Potential Fee: £5 million
When he arrived in January 2016, even the most knowledgeable Gooners would’ve heard little of Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian midfielder was signed during a crucial period of the season from Swiss powerhouse FC Basel for a reported fee between £5-£7 million. Arsenal were in the midst of an injury crisis and with matches coming thick and fast across multiple competitions, the club needed midfield depth to continue their campaign. Elneny brought a good attitude and strong work ethic to the side, but most importantly he was filling a position of need. Despite his strong start, I doubt even the Arsenal hierarchy viewed Elneny as the kind of player who could help take the club forward.
He had a successful first season as the club finished runners-up in the Premier League behind shock winners Leicester City. Elneny was voted Arsenal’s Player of the Month in March and April. He scored a brilliant goal in the Gunners Round-of-16 Champions League defeat to FC Barcelona. It was one of the only highlights of what ended up being another disappointing Arsenal campaign in Europe’s premier competition. The following season saw big money signing Granit Xhaka arrive in the summer. Xhaka was viewed as Arsenal’s long-term solution to their defensive midfield problems. That season Elneny only appeared 14 times in the Premier League compared to Xhaka’s 32. It became clear that despite Xhaka’s struggles to adapt to the Premier League and his serious disciplinary issues (2 red cards that season), he was still ahead of Elneny on the depth chart. In fact, those 14 appearances in an Arsenal shirt in 2016-17 are Elneny’s most in a Premier League season.
The Egyptian has mainly played in a defensive midfield role for the Gunners and has shown good energy but struggled offensively. No goals and 3 assists in 46 Premier League appearances are disappointing, but unsurprising statistics for a rotation holding midfielder. The larger concern has been his inability to start quick counterattacks, which has been for so many years a trademark of Arsenal football. While in possession he’s struggled to quickly transition the ball from deep in his own half to more dangerous areas of the pitch. Opposing teams would structure their defensive press to force the ball to Elneny. He doesn’t possess the range of passing or dribbling skills that are needed to break the press.
The midfielder has featured less each season since 2016-17 and was loaned to Turkish giants Besiktas in the summer of 2019. He has played more regularly for the Istanbul based club this season and a permanent move would suit both parties. At 27 the industrious midfielder still has a lot of football left in him. As a fully capped international Elneny will be seeking more regular playing time in order to keep his place in the Egyptian team. It may require moving to a less glamorous club in a lower profile league for this to happen. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta must continue to prioritise the younger midfield options during this rebuilding stage. Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all offer more long-term promise than Elneny. Arsenal would do well to break even on their investment in the Egyptian and a fee in the range of 5 million pounds would be appropriate for the 27-year-old.