Despite the uncertainty which surrounds Mohamed Elneny’s future, his performance in the FA Community Shield was fantastic.
Every Arsenal fan under the sun believed that Mohamed Elneny’s Arsenal career would come to an end this summer. That may still be the case, yet his FA Community Shield performance deserves praise.
Having spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Süper Lig side Besiktas, it seemed likely that Mohamed Elneny and Arsenal would part ways during this window. Since joining from FC Basel in January 2016, the 28-year-old has been unable to establish himself as anything more than a rotational option.
As such, many fans feared the worst when it was confirmed that a central midfield comprising of Elneny and Granit Xhaka would do battle against one of the best-drilled teams in Europe in the FA Community Shield. However, both men played their part in what was yet another encouraging performance from Mikel Arteta‘s men.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a superb goal to give Arsenal the lead, before Takumi Minamino bundled home an equaliser in the 73rd minute to send the game to penalties. The Gunners coolly converted all five of their spot-kicks, while Rhian Brewster thundered his off the crossbar to give Arsenal their 16th Community Shield win.
Emiliano Martínez was as reassuring as ever between the sticks, Kieran Tierney did what Kieran Tierney does, Bukayo Saka showed Gareth Southgate what he was missing, and Aubamayeng made another meaningful contribution in a big game. Nonetheless, it was the classy yet dogged performance of Mohamed Elneny which surprised and pleased fans the most.
In his first Arsenal start since May 2019, the robust Elneny completed 92.5% of his 53 attempted passes, won two aerial duels, made two tackles and two clearances. As the numbers suggest, he was everywhere. Time and time again – most notably for the Arsenal goal – he would take the ball under pressure and move it along in a composed manner. Simple, yet effective.
Despite his excellent display, one can still acknowledge Elneny’s limitations. No one is under any illusion that he will suddenly produce performances reminiscent of Xabi Alonso every week. He is a solid player, but he will do little to address Arsenal’s lack of creativity, forward progression, and goals from midfield.
In a press conference ahead of Saturday’s game, Arteta spoke very candidly about Elneny, whom he played with during the final months of his playing career:
“I know Mo really well. I played with him, so I know what he can be and I know his strengths and weaknesses really well.
He’s a really positive character to have around and he has some really good qualities as well and like anybody else, in the moment that he is with us, he will be given all our support and the best possible environment for them to perform as high as they can.
We don’t know [if he will stay]. The sixth of October is still too far, as I said. It’s pretty unpredictable to know what’s going to happen.”
Even after his impressive Community Shield performance, it remains unclear whether Mohamed Elneny is playing for a place in the squad or for a move elsewhere. While he is certainly not a long-term piece for Arteta, his professionalism and dependability could prove valuable in the short-term.