Mohamed Elneny. Elnenny… El-Neny? El-Niño? Before we talk about him, let’s figure out how his name is supposed to be spelled and pronounced. To understand his name, you have to know that 'El' in Arabic means ‘the’; hence why Elneny or his preferred Elnenny make no sense in many ways: it’s like saying theArsenal. The confusing nature of this is that he’s registered for the Egyptian national team as Elnenny, for Basel as Elneny, and for the U-23 national team as El-Neny.
Personally, I prefer using El-Neny or El-Nenny, due to the reason mentioned above. For those interested in trivia, Neny/Nenny in Arabic means ‘pupil’. (As in, eyes) For the purpose of brevity, I’ll call him El-Neny.
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Now, before we get into the thick of it, how is his name pronounced? For the uninitiated, Arabic names are almost never pronounced as they’re written. His first name would be Moo-Ham-Mad, while his surname would be Ill-Nenn-Nee, with a slight pause between the last two syllables. For added ease, Nenn sounds like ‘hen’, while Nee sounds like ‘knee’. Class dismissed. Now to the report…
To get a bit of a background on him, El-Neny was born in semi-rural El-Mahalla El-Kubra in northern Egypt, where he was discovered by Egyptian giants Al Ahly, and chucked into their academy in Cairo. Not long thereafter, a rising team in the Egyptian league structure, El-Mokaweloon Al-Arab, signed him for a nominal fee from Al Ahly’s academy. At Al Ahly, he was being trained as a centre-back, while at El-Mokaweloon, they honed his skills as a left-back, box-to-box midfielder, and finally as a defensive midfielder.
Not far down the road afterwards, he was sent directly to El-Mokaweloon’s first team, alongside fellow academy graduate Mohamed Salah. The duo formed an effective partnership, wherein El-Neny’s tireless tackling, pinpoint long passing, and occasional bombing forward propelled the newly-promoted team to fourth place. The league, however, was cancelled due to controversial reasons. After the cancellation, the duo couldn’t play at club level, and went to ply their trade at Basel in Switzerland who had been monitoring them for several months.
Stamina: he runs across the pitch like there’s no tomorrow, a fact highlighted by the Egyptian national team’s coaching staff whenever they talk about him. Ramsey-esque, in that sense.
Versatility: due to his background, he can effectively play across the midfield, and possibly across the defence.
Long shots: what few shots he makes, he often scores. This may be due to the quality of the opposition – or lack thereof – though it is a foundation to be built upon if need be.
Long passing: his long passes, perplexingly, are far better than his short passes. He can often find his man 40 or 50 yards away with Cazorla-esque accuracy. Once again, take this with as much salt as you’d like, given the opposition.
Positioning: he often strays from his position, either to cover the fullbacks – a common practice in Egypt, as fullbacks and wingers both attack while two DMs overlap – or to go forward for a shot; a practice that has made many an Egyptian fan jaded from his style of play, particularly at international level.
Short passing: as mentioned above, his short passing is oddly worse than his long passing. He can lose possession through short passing, but is oft prone to simply square the ball sideways and be on his merry way.
Mentality: as with most Egyptian players, his aggression is off the charts, and this can cause him to commit some very rash tackles. Many sources have stated that he’s a cool, calm head – even too calm – though this can be deceiving. On his day, he’s a terminator; on another day, he can lash out if he’s on the losing end – something Basel doesn’t have to deal with often.
Concluding this report, El-Neny has immense potential. At 23, he’s another gem from El-Mokaweloon’s academy – Salah, to name the most famous counterpart – and he is widely considered to be the future of Egyptian football in midfield. However, he can often be more of a box-to-box midfielder than a defensive midfielder. If anyone can shape him into the player Arsenal needs, it’s Wenger, however. We’ll see how he does.
N.B: Given that El means 'the', his name means 'The [eye's] pupil'. It's certainly reflected in his passing!
This article was originally written for Gooner Talk by Ahmed Nada.
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