With Mohamed Elneny struggling for game time last season, it’s worth questioning why Arsenal signed the defensive midfielder from Basel a year-and-a-half ago in the first place.

  • Elneny signed for Arsenal in January 2016
  • Midfielder has made just 25 Premier League appearances since
  • Arsenal paid £10m to secure move quickly – more than what they were supposed to
  • Egypt international doesn’t have a place in Wenger’s new formation

Arsenal signed Elneny from Basel for £10m in January 2016 – far more than previous reports had claimed. In fact, the Gunners were only supposed to be paying £5-£7m for the Egypt international.

But why?

He was originally signed to plug a gap. Arsenal needed to sign a player quickly; they didn’t have time to be messing around with lengthy negotiations, so they threw £10m at Basel and the rest is history.

Francis Coquelin’s numerous weaknesses were being highlighted an increasing amount and both Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini were set to leave at the end of the season, which the club most likely would have been aware of.

While there were players who could ‘do a job’ in that position, such as Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, their strengths lied elsewhere, so it seemed too ill-prepared and as if Wenger was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Plus, most of Arsenal’s central midfielders are horrifically injury-prone and couldn’t be relied on.

Therefore, Elneny timidly wriggled himself into the first team, only making 11 Premier League appearances in half a season.

The lad wasn’t terrible but he wasn’t the commanding defensive midfielder that Arsenal were crying out for.

mohamed elneny fa cup final
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal and Nacho Monreal of Arsenal lift The FA Cup after The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Last season, Arsenal signed Granit Xhaka, and he appeared to be a lot closer to the type of player the Gunners needed in the first team, despite an initial lack of fitness.

Elneny made just 14 Premier League appearances last season – just three more than the previous half a season. Arsene Wenger, for some reason, decided to keep picking Coquelin.

And it only got worse.

Coq was pushed out of the starting line-up – thank God – and Ramsey was stuck next to Xhaka but in Wenger’s new 3-4-3 formation, the Welshman was given a lot more freedom and therefore excelled. He was able to get forward and even scored in the final two games of the season against Everton in the Premier League and Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

With this in mind, it’s hard to see Elneny having much of a future at Arsenal, despite having three years left on his current deal.