Morning all, a very quick Saturday round-up for you as I have many things to do today. Such as seeing a dog about a walk and buying a frying pan (my search for the holy grail of frying pans continues).
Let’s start with new boy Mohamed Elneny who, it turns out, cost a bit more than we thought. Reports yesterday put the fee in excess of £10m + add-ons which could add another few million onto things. A website specialising in Egyptian football, rather wonderfully called King Fut, quotes the player’s agent who says:
I assure you, the fee is much higher than that what’s reported. I am just pleased and proud that this is the second biggest deal in Egypt’s history that I am involved in after Mohamed Salah’s transfer to Chelsea.
Of course, he would be pleased about that. Perhaps the £10m fee has something to do with the new proposals made by the FA and Chairman Greg Dyke. It used to be the case that a player who had played 75% of recent internationals by a team in the top 70 qualified automatically. That was recently changed to the 50 (Egypt were 57th or something), but there was an exception granted to players who cost £10m or more.
The rationale for that was ‘to stop the flow of the more mediocre players priced around £2m and £3m, who are regarded as chiefly responsible for blocking the progress of academy players into the first-team squad.’
You might suggest that in the world of football the effect of that would be to increase price of £2m-£3m players so that they can qualify, but that would be a very cynical view of a game which is pure to its very core. How could you even think such a thing?
Anyway, I’m gone beyond caring how much a player cost. We have the money, we sometimes spend the money, and unless it’s something ludicrous like giving anything other than a wheelbarrow full of matted dog fur for a player like Sylvester, what we actually pay for our new signings isn’t that important. There remains the desire for high-price signings because they usually bring you a high-quality player, but that’s still no guarantee you’ll get what you pay for.
We’ve had plenty of examples in the past of players in the price-bracket coming to the club and doing well down the years, so hopefully Elneny will be one of those (even if the bracket itself has fluctuated over time). And in this case, when it’s a player we’ve been watching for a year now, you have to think we’ve had enough time to assess his quality and how he’ll fit into the squad.
I thought it was interesting that the manager spoke about how in-depth they went, they didn’t simply look at him as a footballer but also a person:
We have checked his attitude and he is a very focused and motivated player. His attitude tells me he can integrate into a group like ours that demands a lot of dedication from each other.
You can’t always be right, players who you’d think would be inclined to embrace the collective have proved themselves individualists, and that’s often not a healthy thing. Perhaps more than any group of players in recent seasons there seems to be an underlying harmony to this squad. We don’t have a captain who provokes people to punch him in the head in the dressing room after a game or anything like that, which is a good thing you’d have to say.
So it’ll be interesting, given all that, to see how quickly the manager starts to use him in the team. You get the sense that this was a signing earmarked for the summer brought forward because of the injury problems we’ve had. We could be down three midfielders if the elder statesmen like Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini move on, and there’s definitely something to consider when it comes to Jack Wilshere and his place in the squad.
I’m not advocating selling him or anything like that, but unless he can come back and make a meaningful contribution at some point this season, you might have to look at him as a kind of bonus player and make plans accordingly. Come summer our midfield is going to need some rebuilding, no question about it, and the signing of Elneny is the first part of that, it seems.
Finally on this, I enjoyed the way the manager dealt with a question from an Egyptian journalist about the new signing and a little faux pas from the way the club announced it. Fun stuff, you can watch it on Arsenal Player to get the full flavour.
We’ll preview the Stoke game tomorrow, but in the meantime, don’t forget to check out this week’s Arsecast in which I discuss all kinds of stuff with Amy Lawrence, including the new boy and the form of Giroud and Campbell. I also chat about that Aaron Ramsey goal/death thing, so get your ears around it while you’re doing your Saturday bits.