We completed our pre-season fixtures yesterday with a 2:1 defeat to Barcelona. There were many positives in a first half of pressing and fast interchanges and transitions.
One of the standout performers in pre-season has to be Joe Willock, who looks to have filled out massively over the past few months and yesterday he once again showed his promise against a strong Barca side.
There’s an awful lot to like about his game. He’s strong, he can break through the lines with his pace and importantly he’s defensively switched on as well. He made an excellent goal-line clearance in the first half to keep the score at 1:0 to the Arsenal.
The challenge for Joe is that our midfield is rather congested now. We have Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, ElNeny, Willock all vying for two spots in the midfield. Even given the Europa League, something needs to change and Elneny needs to go.
If Elneny was a kid breaking through, you could forgive his deficiencies, but he simply doesn’t offer an awful lot. He’s a safety player, a metronome, he just keeps the ball ticking around. He doesn’t give the ball away a lot, but he’s never going to advance the play or force his game onto anyone.
If you were playing against him you’d have a fairly easy game. He stays on his feet and looks to close down space rather than use physicality to bully you or impose himself on the game.
He’s absolutely the antitheses of Willock in practically every way. I know he’s not on mega wages but we should be able to move him on. We have too many talented midfielders coming through, we can’t carry nearly men anymore. There’s no point and we could use strong talent because they see their path to the first team as blocked.
With the talent kids aiming at all positions squad management is key and Freddie’s role is to make sure that we are keeping spots open for the best talents. Emery knows what a talent he has in Willock, he knows what Elneny can offer and that’s why Elneny hardly gets a sniff in the team.
Time to move on.