In Spanish the word ‘remontada’ is often associated with football to describe a comeback. Footballers also get the spoken of under certain terms too, and Mohamed Elneny is enjoying his own unexpected return at Arsenal.
Not quite ‘remontada’ territory, his reintegration nonetheless constitutes a surprise that few, if any, could have envisaged.
Coming into the midfield against Chelsea for his first start in over four months he produced a typically industrious and secure performance in the heart of midfield alongside Granit Xhaka, a level he maintained in the 3-1 victory over Manchester United last time out.
The fact he’s being involved at all caught most cold, but to have come into the team at its most desperate time and produce as he has deserves nothing but the upmost acclaim. Unassuming, never moaning and always willing, Elneny is the definition of a perfect squad player.
Arsenal’s new and improved Mohamed Elneny is adding layers to his game at a crucial point in the Premier League season
This time around it is different. Whenever he’s played before he’s been rightly criticised for his technical limitations and penchant for being infuriatingly negative in possession. Passes into space or bodies in between the lines are often overlooked for scenic detours either side.
What supporters are seeing is a new layer to the Egyptian. For the first time in years he’s being progressive on the ball. For the first time in years he’s adding a risk factor to his game. While he’s colloquially known for doing ‘Elneny things’, he’s now doing ‘un-Elneny things’.
Being alongside Xhaka in the double pivot may be granting him more license to play forward, but he’s partnered the Swiss before and then never looked interested in what is in front of him. This time around we’re seeing drops of the shoulder, one touch to control and another to spread the play. There are forays forward and efforts at goal. It’s unheard of.
Short-term gain is overtaking long-term planning and what Elneny is doing having been brought out from the cold and thrust into a high pressure environment such as this is superb. He isn’t a solution for Arsenal beyond next season but he could so easily, if he hasn’t already, be the solution to their injury dilemma this season.
To stay engaged, fit, and professional as he has perfectly encompasses him as the man and a player. It would be so easy to down tools and prepare for what is to come. Instead there is a unity within the camp that is helping foster such a collective mindset, one that Elneny had already.