Surprise, surprise! Another round of international break comes around and the headlines fill with news of player injuries and positive Covid tests.
Just over a month ago, we were talking about the fact that Kieran Tierney would have to undergo a period of quarantine after his Scottish teammate Stuart Armstrong tested positive, and that there was no surprise international travel would cause a spike in Covid contractions.
In the end, Tierney was able to escape the absence after an arduous process of clearing his name as someone who was in close contact with Armstrong. He had tested negative on multiple occasions, which I suppose is the most important factor, but it still feels a bit besides the point. International duty was removing players from the bubbles that clubs worked very hard to establish for their players and it was having consequences — all in the name of friendlies.
Fast forward to this week, the result is hardly different. The most recent Arsenal victim? Mohammed Elneny.
Today, it was reported from multiple sources that Elneny tested positive after having previously tested negative during this international stint. On one hand, it suggests that his positive status was gained while away from Arsenal meaning it shouldn’t have any backlash for other Gunners. One the other hand, it’s another player that has tested positive and he will miss Arsenal’s clash against Leeds United on November 22nd.
Elneny has been a stable presence in the midfield when called upon by Mikel Arteta this year and is truly having a revitalization to his Arsenal career this season. He may not offer a lot of flash to his game, but it’s clear when he is given a job by Arteta he gets it done. Aside from Aston Villa when he and the whole team played terribly, Elneny has carved himself out a spot as the choice partner for Partey early on.
In my opinion, it is because Elneny has a keen ability to use his football IQ and eyes to know where he needs to be to compliment his midfield partner and ensure a nice balance. It’s a more impressive skill than many would assume and one we have seen Elneny offer when playing alongside even the likes of Granit Xhaka — a player that others, like Torreira, have struggled to find compatibility with. Additionally, Elneny has demonstrated time and time again his ability to check the boxes of an ideal Arteta player.
His workrate is unquestionable, he’s smart, he’s technically secure, he does what he is asked, he defends, and every now and then, he shows up and shocks you with a lovely little ball to ignite an attacking opportunity.
There may have been a change to the midfield coming after the diabolical team performance against Aston Villa, but this will certainly force Arteta’s hand when the Premier League starts back up.