Mohamed Elneny will play a pivotal role for Arsenal against Southampton.
Rarely ever in the modern era are we treated to classic strike partnerships. Even 4-4-2 is a system that’s use has diminished over the past decade. Arsenal haven’t dabbled with the previously ubiquitous setup for an age.
In the Premier League, Southampton come closest to replicating it.
Ralph Hasenhuttl is cut from the gegenpress cloth, insisting his team press high from the front. Cutting off passing lanes as far from their own goal as feasibly possible, the aggressive nature of their play relies on every offensive passage starting without the ball.
Said 4-4-2 is largely interchangeable but relies on their strike partnership operating in absolute tandem: unity in movement and shared levels of work-rate. This is just one part of their forward mantra, as when they’re in possession the same telepathic communication is imperative to how they break sides down.
Their wide players like to tuck inside, with one of Danny Ings or Che Adams dropping deeper into an advanced midfield role where they can gather possession and run at the now retreated line of defence. Between themselves they assume this responsibility, while the other attacks inside channels for the diagonal runs of the wingers to charge infield.
Arsenal have duels and battles all over the pitch on Wednesday, but Mohamed Elneny‘s awareness in midfield will be crucial to both observing which forward drops off and marshalling which teammate to pick up those runs. These clever movements also double up as dummy runs to open space on the ball for James Ward-Prowse, whose speed of thought and pin-point delivery is one of the Saints’ most lethal assets.
However, should this press be broken, usually by long balls over their pressing line, Southampton’s risky approach leaves them unbalanced. This is where the full-backs or wingers can have joy when the likes of Moussa Djenepo and Adam Armstrong leaves gaps down the flanks.
Likewise, Oriol Romeu joins Ward-Prowse in pressing so aggressively that their pace can be exploited, as can central defenders Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard. Again, Elneny’s role playing out from the back will be exemplified as the right pass to the wide players can eliminate up to five Saints players at once.
In order to stand any hope of avoiding a historic fifth home loss on the bounce, Elneny must be on top form.