January signing Mohamed Elneny started in the Arsenal midfield for his full Premier League debut in the North London Derby last weekend against Tottenham Hotspur and more than proved that he has the ability to feature regularly in the side.
The 23-year-old’s energy to run up and down the pitch in the box-to-box role Arsene Wenger idealised he would bring him in to do proved more than effective. Elneny sat alongside Francis Coquelin and closed down the pockets of space that the likes of Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Dele Alli usually utilise so well to dominate other teams. Meanwhile, whenever the Gunners pressed forward and attempted to create their own chances, they were able to overload the opposition half because of the late runs Elneny would make, similar to those of Aaron Ramsey, although the Welshman has been lacking in that department of late.
With Ramsey pushed out wide to make room for the 23-year-old’s full league debut, it meant that Arsene Wenger’s men were able to dominate and keep possession of the ball, something that Ramsey struggles to do. Elneny is cute in his ability to keep the ball under control and distribute it well, he thinks ahead of his opponent and has the talent in his feet to be able to deliver what he wants to do.
Due to injury problems and a lack of ability to rotate the squad, the Egyptian midfielder was once again brought in just days later to face Hull City in what proved a difficult evening.
The Tigers attempted to sit deep and dominate the midfield by leaving the likes of Mohamed Diame, Tom Huddlestone and Nick Powell to trouble Arsenal, meaning that while the scores were at 0-0, the north London side would be forced to attack from wide areas.
However, one mistake from David Meyler and the Gunners were able to gain a real foothold in the game. His blind pass into the well placed Olivier Giroud put the visitors ahead, meaning Hull were forced to attack in order to regain their place in the side, leaving the midfield vulnerable in deep areas.
Arsenal’s far superior talent and the for once disciplined Mathieu Flamini dominated the midfield battle, the defensive work rate of the forever interchanging Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi meant that Elneny and his midfield partner were never left vulnerable.
The open nature of the midfield allowed Elneny to do what he does best, dominate the midfield and control possession. When Arsenal needed to hold onto the ball and slow down the momentum, he did just that, when he wanted to be a tad bit more flamboyant and spray 40-yard passes around, he showed that he had that in his locker.
With Ramsey likely out injured for a prolonged period of time after the manager revealed he is the ‘biggest worry’ Arsenal have to concern themselves with, it could mean that the disciplined duo of Francis Coquelin and Elneny could be utilised in a key period for the Gunners.
While we’ve only seen small aspects of what the Egyptian, the early signs of what he has in his locker has shown that Arsenal have a number of impressive and more than capable set of options.
Moving on to the wide areas, fan favourite and Man of the Match against Hull City, Campbell, has more than staked a claim for his place in the Arsenal starting XI in recent months.
The Costa Rican international has been arguably been the Gunners’ most impressive player since the turn of the year, starting in eight of their 10 games dating back to the 2nd January 2016.
Campbell offers Arsenal something different to what their usual right-sided players in Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain do.
Although his fitness is a concern because he tends to tire out by the hour mark, he works his socks off for as long as he is on the pitch and has an intelligent football brain, something the previous three players lack slightly.
The 23-year-old is a fantastic defender, against Sheffield Wednesday in the third round of the Capital One Cup, despite the poor result, Campbell spent the majority of the 90 minutes defending in his own half and playing passes from deep positions. This nature in his play continued in each and every game he has featured. Campbell tracks back all of the time and doesn’t allow the opposition to dominate the wide areas of the pitch, creating an impressive partnership with Hector Bellerin.
Leaving behind his defensive contribution, the ex-Olympiacos loanee is more than handy in the final third for Arsenal. Campbell loves to create chances for his teammates and has proven himself to be a fantastic distributor of the ball, often trying to play balls in between the midfield and defensive lines to increasing levels of success.
Whenever on the pitch, the Costa Rican finds himself as the main outlet of threat to opposition, with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey constantly looking to spray passes out wide in the hope Campbell will do something to good effect, and he often does.
Against Hull City, this came to fruition, his pass late in the game split open the opposition, finding Walcott in space, who fired home with comfort because of the pass allowing the England international so much room.
Theo makes it 3-0. Lovely assist from Campbell pic.twitter.com/r8HTL2H8uc
— Terje (@TerjeGoal) March 8, 2016
Backtrack a bit and against Swansea City, despite the disappointing result, Campbell was one of very few shining lights on the night. His early goal was well taken on the slide, he made 32 successful passes, two of which were in key areas that created goal scoring opportunities, he took left-back Stephen Kingsley on no fewer than four times and when substituted off, was met with huge personal applause and boos for Wenger, with the supporters wanting the so talnted winger to stay on the pitch. It’s not that surprising once he was withdrawn, Arsenal went on to lose the game after being dominant throughout and wasting chance after chance.
All that said, the point is that both Elneny and Campbell don’t just provide good options for back-up, there is more than enough evidence and reason as to why they deserve their place in this Arsenal team. The two offer something vibrant, different and are showing themselves to be important both on attacking and defensive fronts.