Watching Mohamed Elneny in action for Egypt in Sunday’s African Cup of Nations Final was a roller-coaster experience. His elation at putting his side in front in the first-half was the bright spot of the weekend for many Gooners. I couldn’t help but wonder what condition he would be in mentally after Cameroon first equalised, then snatched a dramatic winner at the death.
Arsenal will get a good chance to assess him tomorrow according to James Olley in the Standard, who then ponders whether Francis Coquelin or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might accompany him in the Arsenal midfield against Hull City. It is likely to be a partnership that will survive just one match as Granit Xhaka will be back for the Champions League match in Munich.
The popular choice right now could well be Oxlade-Chamberlain. If you were listening to the Gooner Ramble podcast this week you will have heard us pretty much in full agreement that the Ox was the only Arsenal player to emerge with any credit from the car crash at the bus stop in Fulham. It would be a ‘new’ partnership, hence unproven, but if the two could ensure one always sat when the other went in search of adventure further forward it is one that could provide potentially better distribution than the likely alternative.
Coquelin came in for some criticism after Saturday, primarily for not bringing down Eden Hazard before the second goal. The Frenchman has done a reasonable job for us since his unexpected recall but the difference between him and Kante at Chelsea showed how far he needs to develop to retain his place. It is likely that Wenger will pick him for his ability to break up play and greater defensive awareness. Against Hull might he be tempted to be a little bit more adventurous?
There is a third option in young Ainsley Maitland-Niles who the manager appears to value more as a defensive midfielder than a right-back these days, although there may be a vacancy for him there too should Hector Bellerin not fully recover from the effects of concussion before Saturday lunchtime’s fixture. He gave a good account of himself in the FA Cup tie at Southampton and may get another chance before Xhaka’s return drop him back down the pecking order.
Classic Football Shirts
Looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for the Gooner in your life? Then can I suggest you visit the excellent classicfootballshirts.co.uk who can be reached in just one click here.
You will find there a real treasure trove of Arsenal shirts (other teams and international kits are also available) and surely one that the love of your life will adore, although not as much as they do you, obviously!