There are many different roles that comprise a squad.
You need a sprinkling of the mercurial. there must be a liberal dollop of fighting spirit and you won’t garner success without a smidgin of ruthlessness.
Mohamed Elneny makes up perhaps the most overlooked of ingredients though.
The Egyptian recently was awarded a contract extension for his consummate consistency and professional outlook in the face of a less than certain place in the team.
In fact, the first half of the season saw the midfielder consigned to a bit-part role that contained Europa League games and the odd domestic cup appearance.
Yet, we didn’t hear a negative tweet, comment or noise coming from the Elneny camp. No, when he did play, he was his normal solid self and put his personal concerns behind him to make sure he performed in his role, at the very least adequately.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Egyptian. I’ve always thought of him as limited, but I’m happy to admit I was wrong. The departure of Francis Coquelin has pushed him further into the reckoning, and when he’s played, crucially, he’s been utilised in the right way.
You see, Elneny is perhaps the best midfielder we have in terms of the dirty work. Tracking runners, putting in the tackles when necessary, Elneny has put in a shift when others around him have let the side down. The midfielder hasn’t put a foot wrong and in terms of value, he has proved his worth.
Put it this way – is he as blessed as Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere? Is his passing as good as Xhaka’s? No to both. But does he show his worth in every game? Does he add to our defensive side? Yes to both.
Some may see his success as a signal of the weakness of our squad. Would ‘Mo’ have seen any action in previous years? Is he a step down in terms of what we should be used to? It’s an undeniable fact that he isn’t a world beater, and we are accustomed to seeing players with better equipped skillsets on display.
That isn’t to say Elneny isn’t good enough – far from it.
But isn’t it refreshing to have a midfielder who is more adept at the defensive side of the game, and be happy about it? Who doesn’t seek the Hollywood pass, who prefers to make the simple pass to keep possession?
More importantly, isn’t it great to have a player who is so evidently happy at being at the club, despite not having a starting place nailed down?
He possesses a decent shot, he has the physical strength to deal with the majority of the burlier players around, and tactically, he seems pretty astute. He is also the squad member happiest to be the band-aid – that player that comes in when the first choice players are injured. His appearances in central defence show both his willingness to put the club before his own merits and also his tactical nous. It isn’t easy to switch to not only a different position but an entirely different third of the pitch.
Elneny has done it and done it well.
Mohamed Elneny can progress to being the shield in behind our somewhat porous midfield. The Egyptian signing an extension – with a figurative and literal smile on his face – is a great addition to our squad.
His presence makes us stronger and better equipped to deal with the rigours of top-flight football.