Mohamed Elneny was cast aside by Unai Emery and shipped off to Turkey, but for Mikel Arteta he’s the big man in the big games… Arsenal’s no-frills midfielder is the Robin to Thomas Partey’s Batman
- Mohamed Elneny is enjoying a renaissance in an Arsenal shirt under Mikel Arteta
- The Egyptian midfielder was pushed out on loan to Besiktas by Unai Emery
- He returned to London and Arteta convinced him that he had a key role to play
- Elneny has been a breath of fresh air as a player without flair or flamboyance
- There is hope that he can be Robin to Thomas Partey’s Batman in central midfield
When Mohamed Elneny touched down in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in the summer of 2019 he was right to consider his Arsenal future.
Unai Emery had seen enough and cast him aside. He was not involved, his confidence plummeted and a loan move to Besiktas was sanctioned. It felt like the kiss of death for his Arsenal career.
Egyptian Elneny, much like most of Arsenal’s supporters, conceded that with Emery in charge it was the end of the road for him in north London.
But, as it often does in football, luck changed, circumstances changed, and now Elneny is seizing a starting role under Mikel Arteta and a new contract is in the offing. What a difference 12 months can make.
Mohamed Elneny has impressed since taking on a more significant role for Arsenal this season
Unai Emery cast him aside and he spent last season on loan at Besiktas to build confidence
‘Under Emery, I was not playing much, that is why you can lose your confidence and your feeling to play,’ Elneny told Arsenal’s official website.
‘That is why when I went to Besiktas, on a one-year loan, I played always and brought the confidence back, and when I came back here I saw everyone happy for me to come back.
‘Everyone was excited to see me back, and when I trained, everyone gave me good feedback, saying “Mo, you did well” and this makes you get your confidence back. I will build it and build it and every day I try to learn new things.’
Elneny was bought from Basle by Arsene Wenger in 2016 and arrived without too much fanfare.
Arsene Wenger made the move for Elneny in the January window of the 2015-16 campaign
He spent large spells on the bench having failed to establish himself as a first team regular
MOHAMED ELNENY UNDER UNAI EMERY
PL games (starts): 8 (5)
Stats from the entire 2018-19 season
MOHAMED ELNENY UNDER MIKEL ARTETA
PL games (starts): 4 (4)
Stats from start of 2019-20 season
He arrived with grand plans, a starry-eyed 23-year-old who vowed to ‘win the Premier League and cup this season, and the Champions League’. In the end it was a fifth-placed finish in the league and a last-16 exit in Europe.
Arsenal won the FA Cup, beating Chelsea in the final, but Elneny was sent on as a substitute in the 93rd minute.
Wenger departed and Emery arrived. Elneny was squeezed for Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. Chances were at a premium and he was becoming a name in fans’ subconscious, such was his inactivity.
He made just 17 appearances in the 2018-19 season. Elneny was in the starting XI in the Premier League just five times that season. He was, it felt like, a last resort.
So, he flew to Istanbul, shy on confidence but brimming with belief that Besiktas could set him right.
He featured 36 times for the Turkish side and re-established his mojo. It was only the cost of signing him permanently that saw Besiktas turn down their option to buy.
He was convincing at Vodafone Park and Arsenal and Arteta, his boss on return to England, had been watching.
‘Before I came to London, I didn’t speak to (Arteta) and I was a bit…. not stressed, but just thinking about what would he like,’ Elneny added.
Mikel Arteta spoke with Elneny after his loan in Turkey and gave him fresh hope of a revival
Elneny (right) starred in the win away to Manchester United and he now looks better than ever
‘When I sat with him, I said, “The way you train, the way you want to play is the way I love to play” and really I love the way we train, the way he is assisting everything in the club now and it makes me excited to give 100 per cent for the team.’
Arteta’s conversation with Elneny soon after arriving back convinced him that he had a role to play. He believed he had a future at the club and his belief has paid off.
The 28-year-old has made huge strides this season, settling well alongside deadline-day arrival Thomas Partey, the man expected to take his role, rather than complement him.
He is out of contract at the end of this season but his superb start to the campaign is set to put paid to that.
‘I think he’s responding really well to all the challenges we’re putting in front of him,’ Arteta said after Elneny’s colossal performance in the win at Manchester United.
‘He had a big one when he came back from his loan spell to show what he can bring to the squad.
The Egyptian midfielder (second right) is not flashy or flamboyant but is doggedly determined
‘I think everybody’s seen what he can do. I’m really pleased with his performances and what he can bring to the team.’
Elneny was a stand-out in the win over United, pressing doggedly and providing a steel in the middle of the park alongside Partey.
For former Arsenal defender and Sportsmail columnist Martin Keown, Elneny feels as much a new signing as Partey.
‘Elneny has made such an improvement that it feels like he is a new addition too,’ he said.
‘Elneny appeared to be on his way out of the club before Arteta took charge at the end of last year. I like the way Arteta has given him another opportunity – and also he has taken it.
‘It is still early days, but Partey and Elneny worked really well together here and it could be the start of a really productive partnership, at least in the short term.’
It remains a fascinating sub-plot that Elneny starting big games – such as away at United or in the Community Shield against Liverpool – comes as a shock to some.
Alongside Thomas Partey, playing the role as Batman, Elneny can be a useful Robin alongside
A player with no frills, short on flair and flamboyance, but, ultimately, bestowed with the trust of Arteta.
As one supporter quipped this week, Elneny has everything in his game to be the Robin to Partey’s Batman.
The new contract is on its way, his confidence is sky high and he is showing just why Wenger made such an effort to prise him from Basle almost five years ago.
Questioning his game and his future in the arrivals lounge in Istanbul feels a lifetime ago. Elneny is now front and centre of Arteta’s revival.
How the tables have turned.
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