During the brief break between the end of the 2019-20 season and the start of the current campaign, how many Arsenal fans foresaw Mohamed Elneny becoming an important member of Mikel Arteta’s first-team squad?
Not that he’s a bad player by any means – it’s just because he had largely played a bit-part role under both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery, was sent out on loan to Besiktas last season, and as such, it was expected that he’d remain a fringe player or even leave in the summer.
However, Arteta opted to give Elneny a chance in pre-season, one which he took with both hands, and he is now very much in the Gunners manager’s plans, having made seven appearances in all competitions including three Premier League starts.
The Egypt international was impressive once again yesterday he put in yet another disciplined and creative performance in the 2-1 Europa League win over Rapid Vienna, including a particularly neat through-ball to Hector Bellerin.
Arteta has made no secret of the fact he wants players who respect the club’s values and show they are “100 per cent committed to our culture”, and hasn’t hesitated to make controversial decisions – freezing out Mesut Ozil and loaning Matteo Guendouzi out, for example.
Bringing Elneny back into the fold was also a bold decision from Arteta, but one which has reaped dividends and, given he’s done so with a player on Arsenal’s books, it’s cost him nothing.
And it’s also worth remembering that Arsenal legend Gilberto Silva told France Football in April that he thought Elneny was the closest thing the Gunners currently have to him or Patrick Vieira.