Mohamed Elneny: a very very warm welcome.

By Walter Broeckx

A warm welcome to Arsenal to Mohamed Naser Elsayed Elneny. that is his name in full. But Mohamed Elneny will do just fine I think. Or would Mo be also good enough? That is how Mohameds that I know are mostly called by their friends. Or Mou but that sounds too much like Mourinho. So no, if I am lazy when typing I will call him Mo.

Who is this player that one month ago most of us, including myself, didn’t know much about. Since the news became more than a rumour (for me from the moment Basel confirmed there was a possible transfer on without mentioning the other club) I went on the search for more information about this man. I might repeat things that other writers have said but will try to add my own specific angle to it.

He was born on 11 July 1992. 11 July is the Flemish National holiday so it must be a good day. Not that this really matters but in fact it also was the day my parents got married a few centuries ago. So it must be a good day to be born on.  Coming back to Elneny he is 23 years young. Oh those days of being 23….

Everywhere you look his position is called : defensive midfielder. Is he the beast that we should have signed ages ago? We will find out.

He started his career at El Ahly and with all due respect I have to say I have never heard of it. He then went to El Mokawloon where he made his debut in the first team. He played 35 matches for the Egyptian side. But then came the horrible day on 1st February 2012 in Egyptian football history, with the Port Said stadium tragedy in which 74 people were killed and more than 500 were seriously injured when riots broke out between supporters of both teams involved.

The Egyptian government suspended football completely for more than two years after that. It is needless to say that this was also one of the reasons why the national team of Egypt faded away and slid down the FIFA rankings.  One of the reasons we had a bit of trouble signing him in the end.

During the time there was no football in Egypt, FC Basel 93 (usually known as FC Basel or just Basel) asked him to come for a trial and then agreed to sign him on a loan contract from his club. That was in January 2013. So he had almost after a full year without real and proper football!

He won the league with Basel and Basel didn’t hesitate to buy him on a permanent basis. In the three years he has played for Basel he has played 144 matches in which he scored 10 goals. If we just calculate it on a year to year basis that is around 48 matches each year.  But he made over 50 appearances in each of the last two seasons.  He’s got big stamina it seems.

This also means that he seems to have few injuries during the years.  In fact checking his history stats he has only missed 4 matches because of injury for FC Basel. And his injuries were an arm injury and a shoulder injury. I must say this is amazing! But maybe Swiss referees tend to take a stricter view on the laws of the game and therefore few injuries happen to the players.

In three 3 years for Basel he scored 10 goals and that isn’t bad for a defensive midfielder. Most of his goals were shots from outside the penalty area. In his three years he also won three league titles with FC Basel. I don’t know much about Swiss football but is the Swiss league a one team race? So he is another player that knows what it takes to win the league. Can’t have enough of those players around I guess.

But we shouldn’t play him in cup matches. Or at least not play him in the final. Because in his 3 years at FC Basel was in the final 3 consecutive years but didn’t win any of the finals. Did you take note Arsène?

Elneny’s style is described as a runner and tough tackler. Always playing for the team. Always fighting for the team.  So he will be Coquelin mark II as that is also the style of Coquelin. Coquelin with goals maybe?

In a final interview he gave to his former club FC Basel he said the following things: “It is a dream come true for me.  One of the first matches we will play will be against Barcelona so that is amazing for me. I hope I will be involved in this match.”

He also said he hopes to be able to play his own game for Arsenal as he did for Basel. He realised it was a big step for him and a big dream that came true.

Elneny lived actually in a flat in the grounds of the Basel stadium, as could be seen in the video where he was packing his belongings.

His most important match was for him the match with FC Basel when they won at Fiorentina. The first match Basel won in Italy. He scored a cracking goal in that match with a long distance shot that brought them a 1-2 win in the end.

He said that he was sad and happy at the same time. Sad to leave a fantastic time behind him that he had at FC Basel. He will miss his teammates, his friends, the supporters the whole club that FC Basel was for him and thankful for giving him the chance to play for them. He said he would always remain part of FCB as it is called over there.

FC Basel wished him a great career at Arsenal and said they will follow him and hope he can make it at Arsenal.

At 23 and relatively unknown he is a real Wenger buy. The aaa will not like him as he has no name and no big price tag. So we will have to be careful or they will pick on him from the first misplaced pass.

I think Elneny was brought to fill a gap for the moment, but more than this was brought for the future. With Arteta and Flamini both aging we could do with some young legs. Legs that can run around a lot and can step in for and with Coquelin.

Looking forward to see him play for Arsenal, Welcome Elneny! Welcome Mo!


Two anniversaries from the dim and distant.  More appear on the home page each day.

  • 15 January 1891: The Derby Post made some seriously disparaging remarks about the journey to Plumstead ahead of Derby County’s away game against Royal Arsenal in the FA Cup.  These became the standard comment about Arsenal until 1913 although there is little evidence that the journey was worse than any other suburban rail trip at the time.
  • 15 January 1899: Woolwich Arsenal’s half-yearly AGM reports the manager as W.R. Elcoat (ie William Elcoat) not George Elcoat as most Arsenal histories subsequently erroneously stated (until the Arsenal History Society set matters aright).

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28 Replies to “Mohamed Elneny: a very very warm welcome.”

  1. Egyptian people are a talkative bunch, much due to a reason that the Egyptian dialect is slightly faster than others 🙂

    Elneny is looking a bit shy now, but with Arsenal’s fantastic team atmosphere he will be leading the team celebrations soon.

  2. ElNeny
    “I am hoping that we win the Premier League and FA cup this season, and the Champions League as well.”

    If that’s his attitude even more welcome to him. Go ElNeny.

  3. Here’s hoping he get’s a hatrick against te Orcs 😉
    Welcome to the best club in the world Mo 🙂

  4. Welcome Mo.
    I’m sure I’ve read that he’s married with a child and that he lives a quiet life. Good news. Hopefully no pictures of him at 3am outside nightclubs!
    He’ll have to get comfortable with the constant speed of the PL but it certainly seems like he’s extremely fit which should make that easier.
    I am a bit surprised that AW bought a player that could be dragged off to the ACN but I guess he thinks Mo is worth the risk (and Egypt haven’t qualified for the event for a few years), so he must be very good!

  5. Actually, 11th July is the day when the genocide in Srebrenica had started (1995) so it is not a good day.

    How to write his last name? El-Neny? Elneny? El-Nenny?

    He is a humble person, a hard-working lad who is also very religious. If this reminds you of someone, you can write either Alexis or Campbell and you won’t make a mistake.

    He ran almost 100 kilometers in 8 CL games last season. Over 12 kilometers per match. More than anyone else, actually.

    He has a powerful right foot and one of his goals for Basel this season looked like an Arsenal move with quick short exchanges before the finish.

  6. Great work Walter…

    I watched some clips of Elneny when it became almost certain we were signing him. Any player is forever fantastic in positive clips or YouTube…but I noticed that Elneny is a good passer from deep. He’s equally very mobile and ever ready to free himself for the ball. Can’t say he reminds me of any past or present Arsenal player except that his passing range is close to those of Fabregas even though not as precise as our ex-captain’s.

    The only player Elneny reminds me of is the ex-Nigerian national team captain, Sunday Oliseh. He played for LVG in Ajax and incidentally the present national team manager of his country. Both players are of same height and build and play same way. Oliseh did stop dangerous attacks against his side with one intelligent tackle or interception and within same second initiate his team’s attack with one long range talent of a pass. He was one of the most-tactically and technically gifted players of his era.

    Elneny seems, to me, to equally have same ability. With Walcott, Sanchez, Campbell, returning Welbeck to benefit, it’ll be interesting to have a near-Fabregas passer from deep and the master of final third beauties in Ozil in one team. Could be devastating.

    Welcome Mo.

  7. Do you think Arsene would risk him against Stoke considering he probably only began training with us today? Maybe a “softer” opponent and not in sleet like conditions would be a better intro to The Premier League.

  8. From what I have read, he will be a very useful and most welcome addition, look forward to seeing him play.
    Players who have stepped in for the rather brilliant Coquelin have done a very good job, but that is tiring work, think perhaps we were lacking a little energy in that department at times midweek…and understandably in a game if such intensity, so great to have a player of his robust and seemingly technical qualities. Runs 12k a game….that is impressive, and much needed in this league.
    He will of course need time to settle, not sure if there will be language difficulties, though if he does not speak English, Wenger will certainly be speaking whatever his language when he was in Switzerland.

  9. No idea what this guy is like but hope he can be a great addition.

    Might be worth blooding him against Stoke as Sanchez may not be ready.

    After xmas I picked 6 tough away games that could shape our season, Liverpool, Spurs, Southampton, Everton, Manu and Man City. So far we’ve managed just one point from those we’ve played on that list. From those six games I think we might need 10 pts, so we need another 9 from the remaining three. That’s the stuff of champions.

  10. @yellowcanary I think that’s actually 9 from four games, we’ve only played Soton and Liverpool! so far

  11. hes been training with Sam Wilson for 10 days before the signing (at least).

  12. Ideally, we would want at least two players for every position – coupled with positional flexibility should allow us to cover most injury scenarios.

    However, this is not a knee-jerk buy – it is one for next season brought forward as we need a bit more short-term cover. With the likelihood of Arteta, Rosicky and, possibly, Flamini departing we will likely be short in the DM position.

    However, as has been discussed on this site before, it seems unlikely that we could have brought in a big-name player at his peak (e.g. Schneiderlin) to play back-up to Coquelin. Elneny, however is cheaper, not a big name, and younger. Therefore he will develop – possibly to challenge Coquelin in time. In the meantime he should be a good alternate and will get some game time when Coquelin is injured or rotated out. He can also play the box-to-box role although that is more competitive with Santi, Aaron, Jack, Alex etc all able to play (well) there.

    Here’s hoping Arsene has found another gem. Even if he is not yet at Arsenal starting-XI level, I am very confident that Arsene is the man to get him to that level.

    Further reaffirmation of our strategy of buying either (i) world class players (one a season) or (ii) up-and-coming players who can ultimately get to that level.

    It also reaffirms our strategy of NOT buying squad fillers, particularly not big-money names who will be unhappy at not playing or (worse) happy to sit on the bench picking up the money.

    In extremis, we might bring in short-term cover for injuries on loan (e.g. Kallstrom, Benayoun).

    Arsenal have always said this is their strategy. it puzzles me that too many people seem to overlook this. But I guess it doesn’t sell papers. Even Ozil and Alexis were (relatively) young, while Cech was less expensive and still has a good few years ahead of him.

    Fine stewardship by the Board!

  13. Thanks Walter for the background information on our new signing. Yes, calling him Mo will be just nice.

    Wenger seems to be leaning towards players with versatality. We are packed with players like that, particularly in the midfield department. It will take time for Mo to adjust himself to the various roles he will take up in the Arsenal midfield area, as most new signings do anyways. So, I think it’s more for the time from next season onwards that Mo is expected to play the roles currently occupied by Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky.

    Allow me to add my best wishes in welcoming Mo to the Arsenal. May he represent the best that Egypt has to offer to the Premier League!

  14. Welcome to Arsenal, Mo.
    We look forward to your showing forth Wenger’s genius for choosing you over the £25m+ alternatives the press and blogs keep pushing in front of our noses…starting with Stokes on Sunday, in their Britannica den.

  15. Andy mack.

    He is a Muslim, so he wont be tempted to clubs and the like. From what I have read, he’s a level headed guy a bit on the quiet side. One of those natural atheletes that can get up and down the pitch without any problem. Equally good defending or attacking from midfield. Seems like just what we need.

    Interesting what Giroud has said about him on; he said Elneny was “a complete player”.

    “I’ve trained with him and he’s a good player, very talented but first of all he is a good guy – I think he will settle well into the team. I think he’s basically a box-to-box midfielder, so he can attack and defend, run a lot and has good power and technique. He is quite a complete player. It always takes time to adapt to English football because there is a lot of intensity, it is very physical and even tactically [you must get used to it] – but I think Premier League football will suit him well.”

  16. As far as the Swiss league is concerned, it is sort of a copy of Germany. FC basel has the best financial backing/sponsor whatever and with that they get european competitions, regularly Champions League, sometimes UEFA.

    On the Swiss Cup (equivalene t FA Cup) it is another story. FC Sion has some kind of a hold on this one. Over the years, they have participated in 13 finals and won 13… Maye there is some kind of statistic somewhere, but sure looks to me that they must probably have some world record.

    Swiss football invested heavily in its youth since the late 80s. And they have produced generation after generation of capable players, each generation having a few real talents. It shows on the competition front, where, since 1994, they are regularly present in the Euro and the World Cup.

    And they Youth team won the U-18 (not totally sure if it was not 17 or 19 ?) in Africa a few years ago.

    Considering how a country of 8 million can ‘build’ a soccer eco-system as positive, it just is mind-boggling to me that the home of football can’t get it’s act together.
    Or rather it is a shame, as the reasons for it have been explained on UA.

  17. The Egyptian national team are a very technical side, in fact they play the most attractive football of the African teams even though most of their players play in the domestic league. For a bit of history, for those that don’t know, Al Ahly is the African powerhouse in club football. Their stadium has a bigger capacity than the Emirates, of 74000 but is usually closer to 100000 capacity on many occasions, rivalling the likes of Bernabeu and Camp Nou in terms of attendance’s. The club was voted African club of the century in 2000, has won the most number of the African equivalent of the champions league, and did their own version of the invincibles by going a whole season unbeaten in their domestic league as well as any continental tournaments they took part in in the year 2005. The club has appeared in the Fifa club world cup 5 times and came third on one occasion, so clearly they are a very good side. Ask anyone who has their roots in Africa and they’ll tell you Egypt are well respected in football. Its a football-mad nation, and i dont think they really care about any other sport apart from football in Egypt. Their players were well paid and so they rarely left the continent, and hence the little number of Egyptian exports. Whereas other players from other African countries have made headlines for the wrong reasons at international tournaments by threatening boycotts over bonuses and the like, you never hear this about the Egyptians. They are thoroughly patriotic. My birth country has been on the receiving end of several beatings at the hands of the Egyptians.

    I’ve never seen this guy play but if he plays like the rest of them then this will be a good buy. Read in the Guardian, that his father was a youth coach at one of the clubs in Egypt, and that he has run more than any other player in the CL and the Europa, and that he has the lung capacity of a long distance runner. Think of guys like Mo Farrah, Gabrisellasie, etc, in terms of durability, but with the skill to play football. They go on to say he’s the ‘ultimate team player, every manager’s dream, due to his work rate and lack of ego’. The mirror says its difficult to find any weakness to his play, he had a pass accuracy of 92.5%(long-range passing is his speciality), and he was Basel’s designated free kick and corner taker. He’s very versatile and has even played behind the main striker. I find it very hard to think Wenger will fail to work his magic with a player with such attributes. Time will tell though, but sounds like Wenger has found another gem. A very hearty welcome to Arsenal, Mo.

  18. My longish post above was just to try and let those that may not know it that Egypt are the powerhouse of African football. Most people in Europe know Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon or Senegal and think they are the biggest football nations in Africa buy they are not. Egypt is, and they have won the African Nations Cup a record 4 times. The other nations are more known here because of their huge number of exports to Europe, which are made mainly via France.

  19. Sorry, meant won the CAF cup a record 7 times. Cameroon, and Ghana, are joint second with 4 each…

  20. Al…

    Spot on. Egypt play the most tactical game on the African continent. Their winning AFCON for seven times is no fluke. And you nailed it – they hardly play outside continent and hence always have that team chemistry for every competition.

  21. Thanks to Al for the info on the Egyptian league. This is another good thing about having our first Egyptian player – some fans may find out something new about that great Arab nation.

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