Arsenal agree $8m deal for Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny
With defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin out until the end of January with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Elneny will initially be expected to provide cover in midfield as he beds into a new club and a new league. The Egyptian midfielder's energetic style of play should suit the Premier League well and with several Arsenal midfielders expected to leave the club at the end of the season, he will have a chance to cement his position long-term in Arsenal's squad.
Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky come out of contract in the summer and are expected to leave the club. Arsenal will be looking to further strengthen in midfield next summer, having opted against major squad surgery in January.
As such, 23-year-old Elneny's signing is an ideal bridging option that allows Arsenal to bring in a young, inexpensive player to replace outgoing squad players. Elneny has done well this season to take Basel to the top of the Swiss League and has become a regular in the Basel side since joining in January 2013, helping them to three successive league titles.
In the absence of the injured Coquelin and Santi Cazorla (both were injured in November), Flamini has stepped up and plugged the gap, forming an impressive partnership with Aaron Ramsey to help Arsenal qualify from their Champions League group and take the club to second place in the league.
Elneny's addition will ease the pressure on an over-worked midfield and allow Arsenal to gradually bring back Cazorla and Coquelin with a view to having them fit for the key games in the final third of the season, especially with Arsenal paired against Barcelona in the Champions League's second round.
Arsenal are expected to make a major midfield signing next summer with Southampton's Victor Wanyama and Sevilla's Grzegorz Krychowiak the expected targets, although in both cases Arsenal will be expected to pay more than $30 million to secure a deal. Sporting Lisbon's William Carvalho is another reported target, albeit at a similarly high fee.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not expected to sign a striker in January given Olivier Giroud's goal scoring form this season and the lack of first-choice striking options available in January, but a striker would be on the agenda next summer as well.
Wenger has traditionally shied away from spending big in January and in recent years has opted to move for proven world-class talent with players like Mesut Ozil, Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech. The quartet, along with Giroud, have provided the foundation for Arsenal's league title challenge this season and could prove to be the difference in a year where Leicester are top of the league.
Another big move awaits this summer provided Wenger is convinced it will improve his squad. For January, some minor patching-up will do.