Arsenal beat Fulham in comprehensive fashion on the opening day of the Premier League season – but there was a surprise name in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI. Mohamed Elneny made his first Premier League appearance since May 2019 in the 3-0 win and earned rave reviews for his performance from Arteta and Arsenal fans on social media. The Egyptian spent last season on loan at Besiktas and his Gunners career appeared to be over.
A £5million signing from Basel in 2016, Elneny has never been the first name on a team-sheet for Arsenal.
However, the 28-year-old may now be able to revive his career in north London and Arteta may have stumbled upon an alternative to transfer target Thomas Partey.
Arsenal have been keen on Atletico Madrid midfielder Partey throughout this summer’s window but the club have not been willing to match the Ghanaian’s £45m release clause as of yet.
Raising funds by selling players is proving to be a difficult proposition for Arteta.
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So the Spaniard may be willing to back Elneny if a deal for Partey does not come to fruition before the October 5 deadline.
The manager clearly has faith in Elneny and knows him well having briefly played alongside him at the back end of his playing days at the Emirates.
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“Well I really like Mo and what he brings to the squad in terms of his personality as well,” Arteta said after the Fulham win.
“And then at a football level, I think he needed a little bit of belief.
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“He had some doubts whether we could trust him or not. I had a lot of conversations with him.
“He fully deserves his chance. He trains every day with the best spirit, he wants to learn, and he’s performing really well.”
Elneny may be a different type of player to Partey and in most people’s eyes not of the same quality.
He has never been a match-winner and it is unlikely he ever will be.
But he was calm on the ball against Fulham and was comfortable taking it off his centre-backs – something Arteta demands from his central midfielders.
It may be too early to judge Elneny after just one game against a relatively poor Fulham side on the day.
Dani Ceballos is likely to be the regular partner for Granit Xhaka going forward this season but Elneny can be an able deputy – with Lucas Torreira out of favour and possibly out of the club by the end of the window.
Perhaps Elneny’s time in Turkey has done him good and he admits he has noticed some big changes at Arsenal upon his return.
His quotes on Saturday speak volumes for the impact Arteta has made since he became boss last December.
“We feel like we are more aggressive, like everyone just wants to give 100 per cent,” Elneny told Arsenal.com.
“This was what we missed in Arsenal, because at Arsenal we always loved to play football but we didn’t care [enough] about giving 100 per cent. But now we can see that everyone does, even the kit man!”
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