Tag Archives: Elneny

Square Pegs In Round Holes – Xhaka at LB?

Injury fiasco’s are commonplace for football clubs.

Especially if you’re an Arsenal fan.

We know exactly what it takes when ailments, suspensions and plain bad luck conspire to rob you of a recognised position. In the past five or six seasons, we have seen players shoehorned into a slot that is a stranger to them. We’ve seen Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal use their defensive nous at centre-back. We have also had Mohamed Elneny play in the centre of defence, as well as Bacary Sagna.

As you can see, it has been in defence that we have mainly suffered. Of course, we have had our fair share of crises in midfield and attack, but when it comes to contorting a player so they fit into an alien position? It is always in the backline.

It has happened again this season, as we have been blighted by injury at full-back.

So much so, that Granit Xhaka has been chosen to play at left-back on more than one occasion.

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What is it though, that made Unai Emery choose our Swiss midfielder to play in the role?

Perhaps the answer can be found with the aforementioned previous instances.

When Sagna, Elneny, Debuchy and Monreal were chosen by Wenger to fulfill a role in the heart of defence, it was because they were well versed in the defensive script. Debuchy had a fantastic aerial ability for a player of average height. Monreal is a classy player who can adapt to most roles, Sagna was strong in the tackle, and Elneny?

The Egyptian is a solid player, one who will always give his all and never let the side down. He is also decent in the air and at winning the ball. A switch to the centre of defence is a natural move for Elneny given his playing style.

But Xhaka playing at full-back? Especially when our team methods involve a heavy amount of metronome-like activity from the left and right-backs?

Xhaka isn’t blessed with the ability to track runners. The Swiss man though, has an excellent tank on him, and can win the ball if given the opportunity. Since Emery arrived, Xhaka has been transformed too.

Xhaka has confessed that the arrival of Lucas Torreira has allowed him to play his natural game, which links up defence and attack with a swift ball. Does that translate to left-back though?

A certain amount of Unai’s decision to make Xhaka the left-back comes down to the commitment that Xhaka gives. He takes his role as part-Skipper seriously, and his desire to win is clear for all to see.

The proof is in the pudding though. How did Xhaka perform in his unfamiliar role?

He didn’t let anyone down and was solid, if unspectacular. There was no bombing forward a la Monreal and Kolasinac, although he did get forward at times. He put defending first and foremost, and there were precious few opportunities from the left flank that Xhaka gave away.

The decision still causes a few head scratches. Alex Iwobi (yes, Iwobi. The boy tracks back,) Zach Medley, Carl Jenkinson, Elneny. Just a few names that would have appeared a little higher in a list of prospective left-backs. Yet Xhaka was named and he did a decent job.

It just shows that the coach knows more than we do!

Mohamed Elneny – Contract Extension Deserved?

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.

Professionalism.

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.

Arsenal Vs Burnley – PL Preview

This match sees Arsene Wenger take charge of his last match at the stadium he oversaw the creation of. It’s also an opportunity to attempt to forget our exit of the Europa League Semi-Final on Thursday versus Atletico Madrid.

Our loss against Diego Simeone’s side was expected but not taken lightly. We huffed and puffed but very little was created seeing as everything was on the line. It was more of a whimper than a roar, and it kept the theme of our season.

Perhaps the only decent upside of our campaign so far has been our home form, and this game is our last home showing this season, against the only team that can overtake us in sixth spot.

Arsenal take on Burnley at The Emirates

Fighting for this lowly position is a wake up call, and shows us all how far we’ve fallen away this time around, Burnley have had a great season so far, and will surely pose a threat to our record. Sean Dyche has crafted a team that is built on a sound defence, with Nick Pope and James Tarkowski the standout performers. They’ve got threats up top too, with Ashley Barnes sure to give our defenders a few concerns.

Regarding our defence, we’ll be without Laurent Koscielny for the foreseeable future as the defender tore his achilles in Madrid. He’ll miss the next six months most likely, so Calum Chambers now has ample time to set out his stall for his first team future. David Ospina is likely to keep the gloves in goal, with Cech a doubt.

Nacho Monreal may be rested if Sead Kolasinac is fit, and Mesut Ozil is another who may be absent if previous Premier League games are to go by. Henrikh Mkhitaryan should play though, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will come back into the lineup. Will that mean a spot on the bench for Alexandre Lacazette? Or could both play together like they did a few weeks ago?

Midfield sees the absence of Mohamed Elneny, but the Egyptian is expected to be back before the end of the season. It’ll mean that Granit Xhaka will play alongside Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere.

Another really welcome return on the cards – though not for this game – is Santi Cazorla. The fan-favourite Spaniard has returned to training for the first time in 19 months, and the fleet-footed midfielder has been sorely missed.

We’ve only lost twice at home all season and if it weren’t for this great record, we’d be fighting relegation, given our away form is probably among the worst in the league.

A win in this game will see of the challenge of Burnley and confirm sixth spot for us, leaving only games against Leicester City on Wednesday and Huddersfield next weekend.

We will also be celebrating Wenger in this game, with t-shirts and other events planned at the end of the game. Let’s hope we don’t forget that there’s a match to win, that will be what Wenger wants to see the most.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Welbeck, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 to The Arsenal

Forest Vs Arsenal FA Cup Preview

With our league hopes suffering a battering of late, we welcome the return of the FA Cup as we take on Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round.





We are the holders, and as we also hold the record as the most successful FA Cup team – ever – we need to make a good stab of defending it. The first hurdle is this tricky tie.


Our recent Carabao Cup tie against fellow Championship outfit Norwich shows that we cannot afford to take Forest lightly, as we only just squeezed past the Canaries thanks to a brace from Eddie Nketiah.


Forest aren’t in a good place however. They recently sacked their manager, Mark Warburton, and it will be caretaker manager Gary Brazil that will oversee their attempt to cause an FA Cup upset.


Their last game was an admirable draw with Leeds United, but they are languishing in the bottom half of the Championship table and even at this halfway stage, they are in danger of either having nothing to play for – or getting sucked into the relegation mire.


They have some quality in their ranks in Michael Mancienne, Eric Lichaj and Liam Bridcutt and they also boast top flight experience, but Gary Brazil could opt to rotate his squad and concentrate on improving his side’s standing in the league, crazy as that may seem.


Rotating is something we must do, after a frenetic run of games recently. It demands we rest some of our men as there are a fair few that have played the majority – and some of our fringe players who have played precisely zero minutes and are gagging for some action.


With Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil, Alexis and a few others having the lions share of the many minutes of gametime in offer in December – we played nine games in all – some of our lesser lights with much to prove have a great opportunity to send a timely reminder to Wenger that they are still of use.


David Ospina should come into the side to take the gloves, and in defence there will be changes too. Mathieu Debuchy, Mohamed Elneny and Per Mertesacker are three that could comprise our backline, but it is all dependant on whether we play three or four at the back.


Reiss Nelson could take a full-back spot, and in midfield, Francis Coquelin and Jo Willock could do a job in containing Forest and put out any fires.


In attack, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi are suffering from a dip in confidence, so a full game and plenty of chances will do them the world of good.


Make no mistake, we all expect a comfortable win, but however we achieve it will be welcome. If it is another tight game but we achieve safe passage to the fourth round, then I’ll take it.


It’d be great to give players like Ben Sheaf, Josh DaSilva and Eddie Nketiah a good runout, but with our chances for silverware hanging on by a thread and only one bad match from disappearing in each competition, we need to prioritise. Cups need to be put 

in the front of our view, as well as our Premier League position.


Basically then, we need to concentrate on every match. This is what our poor form has done. We have no breathing space, and every game must be given our utmost attention.


Forest must feel the force, and our second string must do the job, otherwise our first teamers will be suffering from exhaustion far quicker than we expect.


Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Debuchy, Elneny, Mertesacker, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck


Predicted scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Brighton – Premiership Preview

Kickoff – Sunday, 1200 GMT. The Emirates.

The recovery seems very much in motion in recent weeks.

Five wins and one draw against Chelsea sees us climbing the League, topping our Europa League group and restoring some confidence in our men and in the stands to some degree.

Three clean sheets on the trot has also allowed us to maintain a solid foundation on the pitch. There have been some shaky moments of course, but that only serves to underline our defensive stats. No goals conceded in three games means that Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are forging a strong triumvirate.

The trio have faced stronger attacks in the past, but the beauty of the Premiership is that no matter the position of the opposition in the league, they can still steal away points. This is very much the case with the visiting Brighton side.

Bereft of their striking options, they may well be forced to play a winger as a striker but don’t let that fool you. We as Gooners are more than aware that it doesn’t matter if our foes are playing with a lonely gibbon up front, they could still catch us cold. 

Chris Hughton will have his side working hard in midfield and he will pack the final third and attempt to play on the break and earn a few set-plays. We have succumbed to this tactic before, but the Gulls have shown they can be teak-tough to break down.

Manchester City rocked up to the Amex recently and it took them an hour to finally break the resistance of Hughton’s team, finally winning 2-0. We will have to be patient and continue to play our game, and we can at least feel safe in the knowledge our defence has been equally as tough or more so recently.

With our rivals all winning regularly, we cannot allow our slow start to be an albatross around our necks, stretching the gap into a yawning chasm before we even hit the halfway mark of the season. Win, and then win some more is what is needed, and our squad is more than capable of this after seemingly overcoming the curse of the Europa League.

The fixture scheduling for competing teams in the Europa League has often been the death knell for sides in the Premiership. Everton, tottenham, Southampton and others have felt the pinch when playing on Thursday and then the weekend. Our squad size is large enough to cope though, and the fringe players have been excellent on Thursdays thus far. 

This leaves our supposed first-team refreshed enough to leave it all on the field each matchday in the Premiership. Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly make changes for this game, but there are a few conundrums to sort out.

Last weeks win over West Brom saw Aaron Ramsey pushed forward into the front three, with Mohamed Elneny partnering Granit Xhaka in the centre. After the Egyptian then played in Thursday’s win over BATE Borisov, will our manager continue with the Welshman in attack, or will he rest Elneny and revert back to the Ramsey/Xhaka duo?

Also, Mesut Ozil is fit and ready, but does he come back into the side? If not, then Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez may be partnered with Alex Iwobi instead. Ozil should come back in, but a winning side shouldn’t be tinkered with too much.

Our team other than these two points of thought pretty much pick itself. There are no new injury concerns, the good news that Santi will be back in January is a huge boost, and our team is looking in great nick for the rest of the season.

We will look to Lacazette for goals most likely. His four goals have all come at home so far and the Frenchman is acclimatising well to the demands of our domestic league. Brighton may be tough to break down, but will they be able to keep quiet our crafty striker? Laca to score for me I think. 

Positives are important, they must be grasped when times are tough. Our next few fixtures are against teams we should be looking to beat, and this is the time to build more confidence, more momentum to carry into the games against rhe big guns.

The bottom line though, is that we are at home again, against a promoted side and we have a nearly fully-fit squad. No excuses. 

Let’s just enjoy the game, we have two weeks of international football coming up, so savour every minute.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – screw it. 3-0 to The Arsenal 

Elneny – A Good Fit For Defence?

Arsene Wenger has had his fair share of success and failure. This is inevitable after such a long career and more opportunities for error and calling things correctly. 

Broad shoulders are needed when making decisions on a big stage. There are plenty who are lying in wait for crumbs of a mistake, and when it does happen, Wenger is rightfully grilled on the reasons why he opted for that call, rather than other avenues.

We can all pore over many litres of spilt milk, but there are many other decisions made by Wenger that have been perfectly timed. Those thoughts that manifested themself into a seamless correlation on the pitch. Some of these have been the adaptation of the players he has signed.

Those men that have been signed to do a certain job and through intense scrutiny on the training field, have been earmarked for an entirely different role. Those that spring to mind are Lauren Etame Bisan Meyer, Emmanuel Petit, Kolo Toure and of course, Thierry Henry. These players had forged a strong reputation – with the exception of Toure – in their respective countries and they signed for Arsenal thanks to their strong displays in different positions. 

Yet Wenger saw something in them that made him mark them for an entirely new venture.

This pre-season just passed saw another player dip their toes into a new place in the team, and Mohamed Elneny did a fair job considering the change in disciplines. How is this different to when Nacho Monreal plays in the heart of defence though?

It is down to Elneny’s place in the squad. Since joining from Basel in 2016 the Egyptian has not let anyone down and can hold his head high. His days at central midfield though, have been limited thanks to the rivals he has for those two spots in the middle of the park.

Elneny is not a spectacular player. He is not the type that pings passes from deep, and he isn’t one to carry the ball around two or three players. He keeps it simple, is effective with possession and has a great shot when the fancy takes him. He is a typical squad player, but could versatility help him land more starts?

Being able to play in defence means he is twice as likely to get a game, given the propensity for injuries in the modern game. Has he the game for this different set of requirements though?

He does indeed. Think back to Kolo Toure, is Elneny any less talented with the ball than the Ivorian? He may lack the recovery pace that Kolo had in his pomp, but Elneny’s experience in central midfield means that he has the tactical acumen required to place himself in a superior position – thus negating the need for that burst of speed. 

It works for Per Mertesacker.

When asked recently about Elneny’s chances of playing in defence, Wenger said to Metro –

 ” Elneny is a player who has a fantastic attitude and mentality, and his main target is to help the team. When he plays there, of course he does extremely well. Of course he needs to learn the defensive side, but I always felt that a good central midfielder can be a good centre back. With the fact of course that when you’re playing in the back four you have to be decisive in the challenges, you have a bit more flexibility in the middle of a back three. He can do that.”

So the boss plans on utilising this new found adaptability from Elneny. Let us not forget that a firm bid was lodged from Leicester City for the Egyptian, which the player himself refused. He seems intent on making a success of himself on Arsenal’s stage, and if it be at the back or in the engine room, Elneny is the type that will give his all to the cause.

Trimming The Fat of the Squad

Published on Goonersphere.​

If there is one thing us Gooners have learned over the past few seasons, is that squad depth is paramount in launching – and maintaining – a push for silverware.

Every campaign in recent memory has seen a period of consistent results which has seen us primed for a push at glory, and yet the wheels have come off time and again when the gruelling amount of games starts to snap at our heels.


Injuries to Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, and a raft of defenders has repeatedly vanquished our dreams, as our side has been forced to field back up players who have failed to match the level of excellence we require.


It places a focus on those very fringe players, and it shows that every single signing that is made is just as important as the marquee transfers which capture our imagination. It is a cause for optimism when we sign players of the ilk of Alexandre Lacazette, but it is just as mandatory having a man like Danny Welbeck waiting in the wings to cover any injuries or tactical changes.


Some players, if bad luck strikes, are irreplaceable and will leave a chasm in the team regardless of who slots in to replace them, but with an able and adequate understudy, we can breathe a little easier every time an opposing player clatters into our star men.


We endured the years when our squad was so shallow that even the first eleven was below par, but now we can look upon our squad and have the luxury to say that our fringe men could get into the majority of PL teams.


There are weaknesses in our pool though, and with our numbers fit to bursting and in need of some thinning if we are to strengthen again, which players need to be mercilessly culled in order for progress to be made?


Our players who can operate at wing-back are of particular importance, seeing as our recent switch to three at the back has placed more importance on these transitional players. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal continue to play huge parts in the team, and new boy Sead Kolasinac looks to be a shrewd signing. We have a few though, that have their heads on the block.


Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers all seem to be set for a role on the periphery this coming season, but are they actually good enough to slot in when they are inevitably called upon?


Debuchy seems the most likely to be discarded, with the Frenchman having been a ghost in the team since his unlucky debut season. Carl Jenkinson, whilst a fan favourite is dispensable. 


Kieran Gibbs has done an admirable job of coming into the team whenever called upon, so what of Calum Chambers?


His age and his recent loan spell at Boro should be reasons enough to keep him, but what if Chambers wants more? His recent exploits with the England Under 21 side mean his stock is high, and his progress could be halted if he is used as a utility player. His chances in his favoured position of centre-back look pretty slim, so it is down to 

Chambers himself if he should want to go.

We have promising youngsters coming through in the form of Krystian Bielik, Ainslie MAitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Rob Holding. Shouldn’t these promising youngsters be given the chance to play those 10-12 games in a season when injuries mount?


We cry out for driftwood to be chopped, but nearly every player has good reasons to keep them. The only reason we should sell any of them – Debuchy aside – is if we can acquire better. If we can, then there is one other question.


Will these prospective new signings be happy with a bit-part role?


Let us be honest, the majority of our side is nailed down, and whilst rotation has a place in modern football,  a constantly shifting eleven does not promote consistency. We need to have players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud champing at the bit, waiting for their positional rivals to slip. This is the motivation that our players need to pull elite performances out of the bag.







Do Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin put enough pressure on Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the park? Whilst they may have their uses, are they first team material? If not, then how difficult will it be to find a player willing to be the equivalent of a new goldfish – sitting and waiting in a bag whilst they become acclimatised?


We all cry out for signings, but with so many different facets to consider, whilst we all wait for David Ornstein to give us a morsel of info, we need to look at the bigger picture. Signings are much harder than they look and we all forget this from time to time.


The chopping block is in place and the axe has been sharpened – but who should go?