After returning from a season-long loan spell at Besiktas, Mohamed Elneny has quickly established himself as one of Mikel Arteta’s most trusted lieutenants in this Arsenal side.
The Egypt international has been a virtual ever-present for the Spanish coach at the Emirates this season, starting nine out of the Gunners’ 16 Premier League games.
But after his impressive display in that 1-0 win away at Manchester United, the 78-cap Elneny appears to have taken a step back, and his performance against Brighton on Tuesday night should be considered as the final straw.
As per Sofascore, he made just one tackle during the game, and contested only four duels – in contrast, his midfield partner Granit Xhaka was involved in 16 of them. There were also a couple of occasions where Elneny was very fortunate to get away with a couple of slack passes and touches, and had Brighton been more clinical in their finishing, there would have been far more scrutiny on him.
Elneny is a hugely popular member of the squad, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang not shy in admitting they get along off the pitch, saying: “He’s a funny guy Mo, and I think we are similar people. We are both always smiling and being positive, so when we get together it’s always funny – we laugh a lot. It’s really, really nice to be around him.”
That spirit is something Arteta himself has shed a light on too, saying after the United game: “What Mo transmits to the team is special. He goes in the room and he creates that atmosphere. Today I said that we needed that energy and that positive feeling that he brings all the time. I think he was tremendous.
“Obviously I played with him so I know his qualities and who he is as a person, and what he brings to the squad. I like players that have zero ego, who play for the team, who want to contribute regardless of what it is, whether that’s one minute or 96 minutes or just by being there and giving positive feedback all the time.”
But there appears to be a limit on just how good Elneny can be, and that was so evident against Brighton and in recent weeks too. Arteta really needs to make a ruthless call on the Egyptian and drop him, and give the likes of Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock the chance to impress again.