Elneny impresses in FA Cup debut: By the Numbers


Alexis Sanchez picked up right where he left off assisting for Arsenal’s first and scoring the winner but with Sanchez already a known quantity it was new signing Mohamed Elneny who really caught the eye.

Arsenal’s recent struggles with offense and defense have been well documented and Burnley has been in great form lately so Arsenal supporters had good reason to worry. That worry must have been compounded when the team sheets were released and only two of Arsenal’s first XI were starters on the day, Giroud and Koscielny. With the latter captaining the side.

Before I start on the stats, I need to say that Burnley are a very Leicester side: they are 1st in their league in goals scored, 5th best in goals allowed, and 3rd in the Championship on points. Typically a team like that dominates possession and shots; but Burnley are 22nd in shots taken (3rd worst) and defensively they also allow the 3rd most shots per game. They also don’t control possession, they are dead last in tackles, they are 16th in interceptions, dead last in fouls per game, 23rd in getting fouled per game, and 20th in dribbles per game.

What they are doing is converting shots, they are scoring 14% of their total shot volume. Very much like Leicester, another team that converts 14%. Average conversion is about 9.5%. These teams like Leicester and Burnley live or die by their conversion rates. They aren’t big tacklers, they aren’t big passers, but they have a quick, dangerous player up front who fights for every possession. If they get chances they have to convert them or they lose the game. In that case, Ospina’s save off Andre Gray was absolutely crucial.

Burnley are also set play and cross specialists. 12 of their goals have come from set plays this season (leads the Championship) and 4 more from penalties. Burnley also have 9 assists this season from crosses. It should be little surprise that Burnley scored their only goal of the game from a cross.

As for Elneny, he paired amazingly effectively with Coquelin after a few bumps at the start. Elneny led Arsenal in total volume of passes and completed 95.2% of his 84 passes, 80/84. Of his 4 unsuccessful passes just 2 were in a bad area, the other two were attempts to create shots for teammates and both were in the 18 yard box.

Elneny’s “bad” passes (Image from Arsenal.com)

Coquelin also had 4 missed passes and like Elneny 2 were attacking passes while the other two were giveaways in a dangerous area. All totaled, Coquelin and Elneny had 3 dangerous bad passes in the first half, leading to the perception that they were off to a bumpy start.

In fact, in the second half, they had just one missed pass total.

As for defensive stats, like I said, Burnley doesn’t give the opposition much defending in terms of volume: they aren’t winning the ball back constantly and running at defenders. So, it’s no surprise that they combined for 4/5 tackles and 1 interception each. In these low opportunity games it’s more important that they get the 1 or 2 tackles they face right.

Offensively Elneny clearly didn’t get the memo from Arsene titled “Walking the ball in: a history of shot selection at Arsenal Football Club.” He took 5 shots, all from outside or on the edge of the 18 yard box. He also created two shots for teammates, again, both for shots outside the box. That’s not for lack of trying, like I detailed above, 2 of his 4 failed passes were in the 18 yard box.

Based on their season stats you would expect an open, easy game for Arsenal but Sean Dyche sprung a surprise on Arsenal and played a pressing game. Burnley won 81% of their 27 tackles and had 30 interceptions. They won all 9 of their tackles in the center circle and were perfect in the first half in terms of tackles. This led to the perception that Elneny was easily brushed off the ball, which he was more than once (I don’t have the actual numbers because FA Cup games don’t show dispossessed and bad touch stats).

Burnley tackles, green are successful tackles where they took the ball
Burnley tackles, green are successful tackles where they took the ball

Elneny had a textbook box-to-box midfield debut: he was always available for the pass, passed the ball exceptionally well, and supported the forwards in the attack. He also tracked back and made timely tackles and interceptions when needed. He will need to gain some confidence (I don’t think he needs to bulk up) and learn how English teams use their body in midfield, but that is something that will come with time. Apart from that an excellent debut from the new signing.


Source: arsenal.com



  1. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by Elneny. I think him and Le Coq will be our midfield pairing for a few good years. As Santi might only have a yr or two left in him.

    It does make me wonder how Ramsey and even Wilshere will fit into the team, Will Ramsey go back to being played on the right considering Campbell’s recent performances. If jack can stay fit will he get the nod in the central of the park..

    Not that I’m complaining, if anything having this depth is excellent!!

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    • I should add, I am not dismissing Ramsey. He is the Welsh Jesus after all… but we all know how he like playing in the centre. Also with both Santi and Le Coq getting injured so close together we have not seen Ramsey and play in that role with Coq sitting further back. I just feel Elneny might be the missing piece we need in that position, but hey I’m drunk and only seen him play once against a team like 25 places below us..

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      • If Ramsey doesn’t learn some tactical discipline he’s gonna be be Ozil’s understudy at best. He’s got Santi in front of him in the box to box role and Jack (if/when healthy) and Elneny are gonna be in front of him before he knows it. And I suspect that the manager sees Welbz (again if/when healthy) and Campbell and maybe Theo as more permanent options on the right. Granted being the jack of all trades type on a big club he’ll get plenty of run but I’m sure he’s got higher ambitions than that.

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        • I totally agree, he needs to play closer to the opposition goal, as he seems determined to get forward at every opportunity. There comes a point where the manager admits that the player is never going to change, and I think we’ve reached that with Ramsey. He needs to be back up to Ozil or right sided mid, nothing further back than that.

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        • We haven’t seen enough of Welbz out right to fully gauge him, but Ramsey offers more than the others. He scores, be gets in the box, he tracks back. “Out wide” for him gives him a license to roam, and he contributes in both directions. Ramsey might want center, but out right — starting position/diagram only — is his best spot on this team. That’s not an insult, I think that’s just the way it works when you look at what he has to offer, on this team, when everyone is healthy.

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    • Wilshere hasn’t been in this team … much … over the past couple of years. Time to move on, maybe, from Jack. Ramsey … If Barca comes for him with a huge stack of cash, Arsenal should sell.

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        • Ramsey is a cracking player who can really make things happen; there might just be a reason Barca are interested, if that’s true of courde. I do agree neither he or Flamini have the discipline needed to sit so raellyshouldn’t play together and both have looked short because of it. Needs must I suppose.

          In reality a good squad with depth is needed if we are going to compete on all fronts so I don’t think its case of either or for any of our midfielders. Also, heavens alive, are those who are so quick to ship Ramsey out the same ones who demand we make new signings at every opportunity (just asking?) Coq/Santi first choice in the centre right now and in the slightly longer term we could be looking at Coq, Ramsey, Elneny and Wilshere competing for the two starting spots. Good healthy competition, all still young, and versatility amongst them, exciting times!

          Also how about Iwobi! twice he has looked very exciting in that role!

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          • There’s a few lads on loan that the manager will have to consider keeping in the squad next year like Hayden, A M-N, Toral, Wellington, Gnabry and Akpom.
            All very good youngsters.

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    • Maybe a 4-3-3 in certain games where we want to be more defensive? Where all of Coq, Elneny, Ramsey, Wilshere, Santi, Flamini and Arteta can rotate for the midfield berth. Having said so I can’t recall the last time Arsene ever changed tactics and a 4-3-3 means Ozil on the wings or dropped. So it’s probably Jack and Aaron on the wings of a 4-2-3-1 and Santi, Coq, Flamini and Elneny rotating for the central role. Either way, the options are there and we haven’t been able to say this for a long time!

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  2. Elneny looked good today. He seems very similar to Ramsey, in a good way in an attacking sense but a much more ‘simple’ player. Box to box and covered a lot of ground (I’d love to see his Km run stats) but passed it simply and I like that from a CM.

    Not sure he could be a replacement like for like for Coquelin, however he’s a great option alongside, very different to Cazorla. Could see him playing in a few more away games this season where we need to be strong but use the ball efficiently, with Ramsey / Cazorla playing at home when we need to create and be more attacking.

    Great to see Coq, Arteta, Rosicky and Alexis play a part as well, and Iwobi looks the part indeed.

    All looking up to a great end to the season if the squad can stay fresh with some good rotation where possible! What a squad we have.

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  3. Was on his way to crown his efforts with an easy tap-in when Theo decided to ignore his 90+5min gut-busting run and dribble into the keeper.
    Not worried though, Feo will make up for this rough patch against Barca!

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  4. Obviously lots of optimism about Elneny’s potential after seeing him for the first time today, but the key will be consistency with his performances against all types of competition as we go forward. Not sure where he’ll fit into Wenger’s plans for the remainder of the season should everyone stay fairly healthy (esp after Carzola returns), but nice to have some depth and solid options at the CDM position should anything happen to Coquelin again.

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  5. He’s not a little guy by any means…but I think he would benefit from bulking up a little. Him and le coq would be a fierce cm pairing💪

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  6. Is it just me are all gooners obsessed with the el neny debut

    We need to know if he is good NOW! After one game ??!!

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  7. Very tidy player indeed. I thought he moved very well, put in a good shift, and I dunno, I really liked the fact that he was taking pot shots at the goal. That adds a little unpredictability to our game, and often times, I feel that’s what we need. I hope he keeps that up, even though he needs to do some target practice. – if he gets those shots on target, you never know what will happen (goal, keeper punches out to a waiting Alexis, keeper spills to the feet of Giroud, etc.).

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  8. He may not have produced saves from the keeper with all his shots, but I like how he struck the ball and for the most part kept them low and was taking them from around the 18…. Ramsey a couple seasons ago did that every other game or so. On to the next round and next up Southampton. COYG

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  9. “Walking the ball in: a history of shot selection at Arsenal Football Club.”

    I can’t find it on Amazon 🙁

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  10. Functional debut. Nothing spectacular. A good player to have in the team. He will take time to adjust to the pace and intensity of EPL. Now onto S’hampton.

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  11. Solid performance from El-Neny,kept passes simple due to it being his first game but was always available. He certainly likes to hit a ball from distance and I welcome this, especially in games where we pin teams back on the edge of their box, he’ll have a bit of space to let fly.

    He doesn’t look small but you could see one or two challenges almost surprised him, like Ozil If imagine he’ll hit the gym!

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  12. He will need to bulk up or maybe even just get some training on how to use your upper body. Got brushed off the ball a few times. Presumably they can just do whatever they did to Ozil to him too and that’ll be sorted.

    Otherwise looked really promising.

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  13. I thought the opposition right back, Tendayi Darikwa, looked really good, considering who he was up against. Put in a good cross for the equaliser as well.

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  14. I see a different perspective. Ramsey needs a player with great passing range beside him because his main attribute is not his passing rather his energy. like the season he had a break through he had arteta. So him and Elneny can be a great pairing provided Elneny remains disciplined and worries about controlling the tempo of the game from deep. Where as wilshere and Santi are dribblers and also have a better passing range than ramsey. So pairing them with Coq doesnot deprive the team of tenacity and good passing. I think this is the way to balance the team.

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  15. Remember barca lv to attack and control the ball 99%, if i see a little error for arsenal it is just goal ariel clearing now and then solid team work needed in back four with keeper mainly middle man i must admit gd to see coq back he play well along with bellerin and as most fans see the team can fly into areas v teams i feel at times formation can be the problem but gd to see sanchez back and coyg.

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  16. Elneny was slow closing down the cross that lead to the Burnley goal just saying and this is in context burnley.

    Had it been Flamini or Metersecker, there would be complains. Koscielny made a number of mistakes recently but no one mentions it. Again had it been Per, someone would bring out the old red herring about pace or lack thereof.

    I’m not trying to champion either of Flamini or Per but it serves to illustrate pretty well the selective viuewing people do particularly adding in statistics when it suits them, ignoring when it does not.

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