The central midfield position has always given Arsenal fans a reason to wince. In recent years, we have lacked a dominant figure who can control matches week in week out.
Santi Cazorla—recently departed to Spain—was the closest we came to just that, however, endless injury setbacks meant it always felt like we were settling for second best in the middle of the park.
Jack Wilshere also battled a long history of injuries; and while this may or may not have been the reason he failed to reach his ‘potential,’ fans were largely disinterested in him during the latter stages of his Arsenal career.
Francis Coquelin, the physical Frenchman, is another Arsenal casualty, who, in his purple patches, looked like the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League. But when he wasn’t on-song, you damn well knew it.
The midfield what-ifs are endless, but there’s no point brooding over the past. Looking at the current squad, our midfield looks promising, yet familiarly uncertain. The signing of Lucas Torreira is a positive one, but at 22, he will need time to adapt to the English game. Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka is like a box of chocolates and Aaron Ramsey is only now just looking like, perhaps, maybe, he is in full bloom.
So, the stage is set for Mohamed Elneny. He is a consistent performer who is most reminiscent of Cazorla; a deep-lying playmaker who has the ability to break down opposition attacks. However, the key word here is ‘consistent,’ which doesn’t mean he is consistently amazing; he is, rather, consistently decent. The challenge for the Egyptian midfielder this season is to lift his game and develop into a player to whom Unai Emery will seriously need to consider giving a starting berth.
With the added competition of Torreira and Mattéo Guendouzi, this season is of the utmost importance for Elneny. It’s truly make or break time for him; he will need to impress Emery in pre-season and stake his claim as a serious starter, if not for this season, then at least the next. At 26, he will surely want to spend his prime years in North London, but only if he’s worthy of a place. He is somewhat the forgotten man of Arsenal’s midfield; it’s because he’s no-nonesense, and that is a trait too often overlooked in the modern game.