Mohamed Elneny has been used as a makeshift central defender in pre-season this term, and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is open to using him as a ball-playing type.
The Gunners made the switch to the 3-4-2-1 formation which helped Chelsea to steal a march on all rivals as they comfortably secured the Premier League title last season, and we opted to play our own system including the same system toward the end of the campaign also.
Using their own formation, we managed to dominate the champions in the FA Cup final, and are looking to continue our upturn following the switch by continuing into the new campaign with the same ideas, and a ball-playing defender can be a huge asset to the system.
Mohamed Elneny has found himself adopting said role in the side of late, and is a viable option to continue in that role as we move forward, much like David Luiz adopts in Chelsea’s XI.
The Brazilian was previously known for his defensive frailties, but has been amazing in a back-three with the freedom to move forwards, and we could well see our own star excel given the role.
Arsene Wenger has now stated that he likes the use of Elneny between two fast centre-halves.
Wenger said: “Elneny is a player who has a fantastic mentality and attitude, and his main target is to help the team. When he plays there, of course he does extremely well.
“Of course [he needs to learn the defensive side], but I always felt that a good central midfielder can be a good centre back. With the fact of course that when you’re playing in the back four you have to be decisive in the challenges, you have a bit more flexibility in the middle of a back three. He can do that.
“Overall on tour, I played players like Elneny in a back three and he coped very well. Maitland-Niles sometimes played at centre back as well, even in the big games against Chelsea.
“You see their strengths and their weaknesses, and you learn a lot about your players and your combinations too. The advantage we have is that we have a good stability in our squad, so I already know who I can combine with who, more or less.”
Elneny has impressed in his limited opportunities in the first-team squad, but has found himself battling with one too many rivals for a central midfield role, but we may just have found the perfect position for him, and just like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, maybe we could maximise the ability in our squad thanks to the ew move.
Is there a permanent space in our back three for Elneny? Who should make way for him in the line-up? Does Maitland-Niles deserve to be ahead of the Egyptian in the defensive roles?