Mohamed Elneny has signed a one-year extension to remain at Arsenal next season. The Egyptian midfielder was spotted in the press room, pen in hand, signing his contract and posing for photos with the club photographer shortly after the Everton match. The deal reportedly has a one-year option as well, although it’s unclear whether it is a player or a club option. My guess is that it’s Arsenal’s option - you don’t hear of too many player options in football contracts.
Mohamed Elneny in the #AFC press room today after the game posing for pictures with the club photographer. Appears to be holding a pen with a piece of paper in front of him. pic.twitter.com/ri95JJIqit— Kaya Kaynak (@kayakaynak97) May 22, 2022
It’s a fine deal for Arsenal and for Elneny. He wanted to remain at the club, and Arsenal will need a deeper roster next season with Europa League matches on the schedule. By all accounts he’s a good professional and a positive presence on the training ground.
On some level, Arsenal just need capable players to rotate in for lesser matches so that players like Thomas Partey, who has struggled to stay fit, can stay fresh. Rested players are less likely to get injured. Elneny is more than capable of playing Europa League group stage matches next to Sambi Lokonga or Granit Xhaka (if he’s still at the club), early-round cup matches, and against the bottom third of the Premier League. “Stealing” those matches to rest Thomas Partey and whoever Arsenal (hopefully) bring in at CDM will have value next season.
Of course, that’s assuming Arsenal are going to bring in another top-class, first choice CDM type to complement Partey, one good enough that Arsenal don’t miss a beat between him and Partey. A CDM stable of Thomas Partey, summer signing, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, and Sambi Lokonga should get the job done next year. But I don’t like extending Elneny if it comes at the cost of not bringing in a CDM reinforcement. Arsenal need more quality in that position. Elneny should not be third on the depth chart again.
Looking beyond next season, I’m glad it’s a one-year deal with an option. If things go to plan, Arsenal are back in the Champions League in two seasons and will need 20 first-team level players. Mohamed Elneny will never be that and the club will be free to let him go without cost. The option gives Arsenal flexibility should something go wrong, like Lokonga not developing, missing out on the CL again, serious injury, etc. If all goes well, the club don’t exercise that option and amicably part ways with Mo. Or they exercise it so that they can make a small fee selling him on to a buyer secured before picking up the extra year.
It’s a sensible, low-risk, low-reward move overall. I’m fine with it. Not every deal you make has to be a home run.