You know how the phrase ‘the calm before the storm’ relates to something bad about to happen? Well I hope that today’s complete dearth of anything interesting Arsenal-related does not follow the same path, because there is right now, literally nothing worth talking about. I’m not in the slightest bit interested in transfer guff at the moment. I could not care less about the fascination with Wilshere being ‘on the plane or not’ for the Euro’s, or what ex-managers think of who will win the league now. None of it even slightly captures my interest.
Even the news that Mohammed Elneny is the Arsenal.com Player of the Month isn’t really enough to avert my apathy. I’ve never understood the concept of individual player of the month awards if I’m honest. What’s the point? It’s simply an acknowledgement that you’ve performed well over a very short space of time. A bit like a Man-of-the-match award at the end of a game that you’ve lost. The fundamental premise of football is that it’s a team game, with rewards for consistency over a prolonged period of time. So what’s the point in having short-term rewards? They don’t really mean anything.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t been very happy to see the Egyptian play well. Certainly not. I’m delighted that he’s been able to ‘bed in’ quickly enough. With his signature and the initial reluctance for the manager to use him in the first few matches after he’d signed, to me it had shades of Gabriel last season about it, which is no major problem aside from the fact that our midfield had essentially stopped functioning since Christmas. So whilst the manager was more forced into playing Elneny earlier than he would have liked, a formula has still been found and we’ve looked much better in midfield as a result.
Elneny feels very much like and Arteta-shaped void has been found in our team now. He’s composed, he keeps the team ticking over and does the simple things well, with the added bonus that he covers a heck of a lot of ground. Arsène – and Arsenal fans too – has spoken of the need for Aaron Ramsey to get himself ‘back to basics’ in his play, but the arrival of Elneny in the heart of that Arsenal team has shown what happens when you have a player happy to do just that, which a clearly reluctant Ramsey hasn’t managed playing centrally.
Elneny looks like he’s shaping up to be another bargain, but as I’m sure you’ll be saying to me as you read this para, it’s still very ‘early days’. The initial signs are good but we need to see it between now and the end of the season. Which then sends my own thought process in the direction of Jack Wilshere, who will be returning to action – supposedly – within the next week. We’re now at the stage where he is a ‘bonus’ rather than somebody to rely on, but how does Arsène fit him in to that midfield? Does he replaced Coquelin or Elneny?
It’s an interesting one, because I’m sure many will feel that Wilshere and Coquelin would be a more natural partnership, with Wilshere as the deep-lying playmaker and Coquelin the combative holding midfielder screening the back four. Jack has that drive about him. That ability to beat a man over short distances, but also to spot a pass, both intricate and over longer distances. He’s not as much of the finished article as Santi, but could he be? I don’t see why not. So that being the case, it seems natural given the Santi/Coquelin success earlier in the season and last season, that Jack couldn’t take up the mantle. But I think Elneny would make a better partner. He covers more ground, he looks and feels like he’s in more control when he’s in possession of the ball, and he would be somebody I’d feel more comfortable with it he found himself isolated in the middle of the park. With Coquelin you always get the feeling he needs somebody with him to provide a short and quick distribution to. In these fledgling stages of Elneny’s career at Arsenal, I don’t feel like he seems to need such sheparding, much like Arteta didn’t when he first arrived at the club.
Of course as I say, this is all hypothesising, because it has long become quite difficult to place our full faith in Wilshere to stay fit. So with that in mind, do we need another Wilshere or dare I say it, one of similar type, to become a more regular partner for Elneny?
Something to ponder for you on a Thursday. As for me, I’m off to complete another day of paper pushing, so I’ll see thee tomorrow.