Mohamed Elneny may not be a world class defensive midfielder but boy does it give it a go.
The Egypt international started against West Ham after Francis Coquelin was left out of the squad due to injury and Arsenal’s midfield instantly looked that bit more secure.
Elneny may not be a superstar when it comes to surging runs forward or a massive creator but he knows where he’s supposed to be and is professional enough not to wander all over the pitch. This means, against the Hammers, we didn’t have massive gaps in front of the back four left for the opposing team to dance into. Unlike when Coquelin plays.
This Arsenal team was far from perfect – the first 15 minutes were especially boring – but once the players warmed into the game, they looked a far better side than they have in a while. When Coquelin was playing.
At halftime, Elneny had already taken two shots out of Arsenal’s eight in total and had the second most passes (37/39) with a 95% pass success rate.
Although Elneny’s playing style is more uniform than his partner, Granit Xhaka, there’s no messing around or nonsense. He doesn’t attempt anything he shouldn’t… except for the odd shot from range, that is.
The 24-year-old continued to tear around in the second half with bundles of energy, consistently playing neat little one-twos and moving into space. He was brilliant on the break but didn’t leave gaps when he wanted to progress. Because he’s not Coquelin.
If we take a look at Elneny’s heatmap against West Ham compared to Coq’s from his game against City at the weekend, you can see how much more concentrated Elneny’s movement is despite him looking as if he’s running all over the pitch.
The midfielder completed 69/71 passes overall, 16/17 in the attacking third, created one chance, won three ball recoveries, 2/6 tackles, won 2/2 aerial duels and didn’t commit any fouls. He’d also had four shots, one of which was on target.
Elneny’s whole performance against West Ham was a demonstration of why he should be starting over Francis Coquelin and, after that, you can’t really argue.
Stats via FourFourTwo’s Statszone & WhoScored.