Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League following a 5-1 aggregate defeat to holders Barcelona on Wednesday night, but there were many positives to take from the result – one was the performance of midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
The 23-year-old was a bright spark against the Catalans, and seems to improve in every game for the Gunners. Aaron Ramsey has a task to dethrone when he returns from injury next month.
Elneny provides defensive protection and a creative outlet
Elneny operated as deep-lying midfielder alongside Mathieu Flamini and wasn’t afraid to play football around the Barcelona players, while brilliantly putting pressure on the Spaniards high up the pitch. Along with youngster Alex Iwobi, the former Basel man was Arsenal’s brightest performer and capped an impressive showing with a fantastic goal – curling an effort past Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen after a cutback from Alexis Sanchez.
He scored with his only shot on target, created a couple of chances for his teammates, and finished the game with a 93% pass completion ratio. Elneny was brilliant fulfilling his defensive duties too, making three tackles and three interceptions. He saw a lot of the ball in the middle of the park, but endured he wasn’t wasteful in possession as gifting the ball back to Barcelona would be fatal.
A thrifty purchase from Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger won’t have been happy with the result, but the performance of his January signing will delight him. Costing just £7M, Elneny has looked a useful player in the Arsenal midfield. And he’s brilliantly replacing Aaron Ramsey in an area supporters felt needed bolstering. The Egyptian international was highly-rated prior to his move to the Emirates, but it’s often hard to settle in a team mid-season.
After overcoming a shaky debut for Arsenal, the midfielder looks comfortable with his teammates, and could be a big player in 2016/17 with a full pre-season with the Gunners under his belt. A blend of defensive and creative attributes, Elneny is the perfect central midfielder alongside a ball-winner as he is tactically aware and doesn’t leave Arsenal too vacant in the middle of the park.
The 23-year-old is also not afraid to collect the ball under pressure and move it forward so it’s easy to see why he stood out to Wenger. And for £7M, the Londoners could have a bargain on their hands if he can continue his development. Aaron Ramsey is expected to return from a thigh injury next month, but Elneny isn’t likely to lose his place any time soon given how much he’s impressed.
How good has the new-boy been for Arsenal this season?