By Will Butcher
Arsene Wenger saw his side stretch their unbeaten run to 19 games with a 2-1 victory against Bournemouth on Sunday.
Goalscorers Alexis Sanchez, who scored twice, and Theo Walcott took the plaudits but it is an unsung hero in midfielder Mohamed Elneny who has been the secret to Arsenal’s recent success.
Elneny is starting to emerge as Wenger’s first choice in the Gunners’ midfield after starting the team’s last two Premier League matches.
Rested against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday after starting alongside Francis Coquelin against Man United, Elneny returned to the starting line up against Bournemouth to make his seventh start of the season.
Here are three reasons for Elneny’s importance in the middle of the pitch for the Gunners:
Ability to drive with the ball
The Egypt international offers something different to the likes of Coquelin and Xhaka in that he is happy to run with the ball at his feet.
With a certain degree of pace, Elneny is able to pick the ball up and drive at his opponents, which pushes the rest of the side up the pitch. It allows the attackers to move off the ball in front of him, as well as forcing their opponents backwards.
His physical power allows him to glide past players as if they were not there, but he is fit enough to return to his position quickly if he loses the ball.
Array of short and long passing
Elneny has proven that he has the vision and awareness to pick a pass both long and short.
Arsenal are full of stars that have fantastic passing skills, as it is fundamental to the way they play football. With Elneny in central midfield, Arsenal’s attackers know they will receive a pass with the correct weight and accuracy.
Signed from Basel for just £5million, Elneny is proving to be a shrewd piece of business by Wenger as he continues to dictate the tempo in Arsenal’s midfield.
Combative yet disciplined
One thing Elneny does have in common with both Coquelin and Xhaka is that he is more than happy to put his body on the line.
However, Elneny is yet to pick up a yellow card for the Gunners this season, while Coquelin was suspended for the victory over Bournemouth after picking up a yellow card against United.
Switzerland international Xhaka has also already been sent off in his short Arsenal career,.
It shows that the midfield star is not overzealous when it comes to the defensive part of his game. With no suspensions, Elneny can become more available which will delight Wenger.
In other Arsenal news, this injury-prone star is set to be sidelined once again.