Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))

Ahram Weekly

Al-Nenni gathering steam

In only his second appearance with his new team Arsenal, Mohamed Al-Nenni looked impressive against Hull City but can he turn a good performance into greater ones? Ahmed Hamdi reports

Al-Nenni
Al-Nenni
Al-Ahram Weekly

For the first time since they left Egypt, Ahmed Al-Mohamadi and Mohamed Al-Nenni went head-to-head when their teams Hull City and Arsenal clashed in the FA Cup. Al-Mohamadi is a regular starting player in his team while the match was only the second appearance for Al-Nenni with the Gunners shirt.

As Al-Nenni finally made it to Arsenal's staring 11 for only the second time since January, he showed great improvement in his movement on the pitch. From the beginning of the match the Egypt international made sure he moved in the empty spaces in between the defending blocks that were created by Hull's players. He also showed a lot of confidence and style on the ball.

It seems he started in a center midfield position, next to Mathiu Flamini, who played the role of the defending midfielder. The Egyptian moved right and left and was always not far from the box. He had a chance to score if only a Hull defender had not prevented the ball from entering the goal with his hand.

Al-Nenni also showed great passing skills, delivering 85 passes out of 96, according to Sky Sports. At least two of his passes were very close to becoming assists if his teammates were more accurate on goal.

Until the middle of the second half, Al-Nenni was more of a playmaker than a defending midfielder which is his original position, however, as time passed and the match got more complicated for his team, it seemed like his coach instructed him to drop back a bit to play more defending roles as he made attacking substitutes.

The game ended 0-0 with holders Arsenal now travelling to Hull for an FA Cup fifth-round replay.

Al-Nenni's defending performance was as good as his overall effort that he gave for all 90 minutes, impressing both the fans and media. A website created for Arsenal's news called ‘Pain in the Arsenal’, said in a report following the match, "one of the top performers for Arsenal against Hull City was Mohamed Al-Nenni. It has now been two starts for Al-Nenni and both times out, it was clear the guy does a lot of things well. He advances play well. He passes well. He defends well. He is that all-around guy that Bob Bradley (former Egypt coach) said he was".

But the website still wondered about Al-Nenni’s position in which he should be used, as it continued in its report. "Al-Nenni does a lot of things well, but nothing great. He is the perfect utility man that can plug into midfield roles all across the formation. Wenger has said that he will not be used as a defensive midfielder, but Wenger also despises defensive midfielders, so take it with a grain of salt. He could end up playing a defensive role and just not strictly defending."

Another pro-Arsenal website, however, went on to choose the Egyptian midfielder as Man of the Match against Hull. The match's report praised the Egyptian, saying "as our defenders were rarely tested I have gone for the impressive Mohamed Al-Nenni who hardly put a foot wrong". The website also gave him a 7.5 rating with this comment: "looks a class act. Great energy and defensive awareness with crisp passing".

Al-Nenni’s ability to pass right has surly impressed, but on the other hand, he had a problem that made him get a rating of 2.5 out of 5 from Goal.com. The Egyptian lacked courage to shoot on the goal on several occasions. He also lacked accuracy in the few times he did. The British website described his performance: "Looked to get forward as much as possible but lacked the quality in his final ball".

There is no doubt that Al-Nenni has proven himself to be a very good player for Arsenal, however, he still needs to train more on shooting from outside the box, something that Arsenal players have not been doing a lot lately, despite their nickname, The Gunners. If Al-Nenni starts shooting from afar, with his great passing accuracy and defending abilities, it will be only a matter of time before he gets to the starting 11 in the more competitive tournaments, the Premier League and Champions League.

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