Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))

Ahram Weekly

An Egyptian Gunner

Star midfielder Mohamed Al-Nenni is reportedly going to English giants Arsenal, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s 23-year-old Mohamed Al-Nenni said on Sunday he had just about signed with the titanic English club Arsenal. Al-Nenni told Ahram’s Arabic news website that he had undergone a medical at Arsenal on Saturday and will sign on the dotted line on Sunday.

To be sure, as of writing, the club is yet to confirm the deal. Rumours of the move had been on nearly every English website and newspaper indicating that the deal between the two clubs was finalised with only personal terms between Arsenal and Al-Nenni remaining for the deal to be concluded.

Such a deal would see Al-Nenni follow in the footsteps of his former teammate in Arab Contractors Mohamed Salah who left Basel for Chelsea two years ago only to see his playing time restricted and leave for Roma this year. Al-Nenni will certainly face a huge challenge to nail a staring place in a team full of superstars all of whom are fit. The deal, which will cost Arsenal around 5 million sterling according to the reports is seen as a cover for the expected loss of Arteta and Flamini who are both set to leave in the summer after the end of their contracts. However, Al-Nenni is not expected to be first choice as Francis Coquelin, who’s out injured, will certainly return to the starting line up once he’s back.

On the bright side, being the second choice in your position in a team like Arsenal is surely something Al-Nenni can be proud of given that no player in Egyptian history made such a high profile move apart from Salah. Mirror Football, the famous English newspaper/website, rates Al-Nenni highly even though it believes that he will play second fiddle to Coquelin. Mirror thinks that our Egyptian star fits perfectly in this Arsenal side. “He’ll fit right in at Arsenal and has more to offer than Coquelin going forward and is more than just a short-term replacement for the Frenchman,” it said.

 This is true indeed as the Frenchman is not the type of midfielder who attacks. His game is all about defending and feeding the attacking midfielders with the ball while Al-Nenni has got a good eye on goal and can dictate the pace of a game.

Let’s hope that coach Arsene Wenger saw Al-Nenni’s two goals against Fiorentina in the Europa League this season to know that the Egyptian star has got an edge over Coquelin when it comes to attacking duties. “The Egyptian midfielder fits the profile perfectly because he is good value, he has good energy and has impressed with good performances to help Basel go top of the Swiss League. He’s not a classic holding midfielder and can be an asset to the squad in the long term,” added Mirror in its article about Al-Nenni.

If indeed Arsenal has signed Al-Nenni and does not take any other midfielder between now and next summer, our Egyptian star can undoubtedly compete with the tough Frenchman for a starting place if he manages to speak at least a little of the language as soon as possible and if he plays his own game without fear.

Al-Nenni always impressed against top English teams in the Europa League such as Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea so he certainly knows a thing or two about the pace of the English game which will help him adapt quickly. There is still no official announcement from any of the three parties involved. But Egyptian fans are already talking about Al-Nenni playing alongside the likes of Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott and co in what would be a dream come true.

The writer is a freelance journalist

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