Wenger: ‘Nobody else wanted midfielder Elneny’

Sarah Winterburn

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted that no other club wanted £5m Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny.

Elneny has been described as “between Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey” with his defensive-minded box-to-box style; he will start in midfield alongside Francis Coquelin on Saturday against Burnley in the FA Cup.

Wenger appears quite cautious about Elneny, who was shocked by the physicality of the game against Stoke two weeks ago.

“Let’s see how well he adapts to English football before we see if we have got him for a cheap price,” said Wenger.

“Maybe there wasn’t a lot of competition because we were the only interested club in signing him.

“Not too many people spoke about him and he was basically not much on the radar.

“But we were looking at a specific position for a player with his kind of qualities and we identified Elneny as someone with the potential to do it.

“I think we were right about him, but now he has to show that he can do it.

“It’s a big step for him to come from Switzerland to go to the Premier League but I think it is the right time for him.

“Physically, he is not a monster. Usually middle eastern people are big on stamina, mobility and agility but sometimes lack a bit of power.

“He is not a powerhouse, but winning the ball is not only down to strength. It’s also about technique and switching on at the right moment.

“You have players who are really muscular who lose fights against very slim players because small guys get their timing right.

“It’s a real technique to switch your muscle on when the opponent is in a weak position.

“I remember Jean Tigana only weighed 63 kilograms yet he was unbelievable as a defensive midfielder.

“Elneny is a natural box-to-box player but he is more defensive-minded than most who play that role, so he can also play in a holding position.

“He is a little bit between Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey. He can win the ball and effect quick transition and he is defensive-minded in his transitioning.”