Arsenal announced today (Wednesday) that Egyptian international Mohamed Elneny had been voted the club’s player of the month for March.
And a richly deserved award it is, too.
The January signing has proved, in the last month, to be an astute piece of business from Arsene Wenger, picked up for a reported fee of £7million from Swiss side Basle.
In truth, it has been a slow introduction to first team action for the 23-year-old, with not much playing time to speak of between January, when he arrived, and the beginning of March.
But football is all about taking your opportunities and an injury to Aaron Ramsey, something of a fixture pile-up, and a series of defensive melt-downs led to a vacancy in the midfield – with solidity and a great deal of intensity high on the list of requirements.
And that is just what Elneny provided when brought into the side following ignominious defeat at Manchester United. He may not be the most skilful midfielder in world football but, together with Francis Coquelin, he has formed the beginnings of a quite formidable relationship.
I think in particular of the way they really hassled and got stuck in at Tottenham, creating a much-needed screen in front of a defence that has been sorely and repeatedly exposed in the weeks before that game.
Whether he will be able to hold on to his place when the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere, and Cazorla return to the fold remains to be seen, but he has done himself no harm with a run of very polished performances.
Elneny’s Magic Month*
Against Everton, he recorded two blocks, five clearances and two interceptions – with a 90 per cent pass completion rate to boot.
At White Hart Lane, his passing success was lower – at 80 per cent – but still a good return given how up against it we were playing with 10 men for a large chunk of the game, and without his midfield partner.
He also recorded two interceptions, four clearances and a block in that game.
But it was his exertions in the Nou Camp in which we saw Elneny truly rise to the fore, with a standout performance on the night.
As well as a quite superb goal, he registered three shots, two created chances, two crosses and had a passing success rate of 92 per cent.
On the defensive front, he made three interceptions and two clearances, with a block also recorded. All round, it was a superb night for the Egyptian and one, I think, that really stuck in the minds of Arsenal fans, going some way to earning him the player of the month accolade.
*All statistics compiled by Opta