Mikel Arteta says Arsenal could do with more reinforcement in midfield as concerns grow that Mohamed Elneny has sustained an injury that could sideline him for quite some time.
The Egypt international was on target in the 3-0 win over Oxford United two weeks ago but sat out the wins over Sp*rs and Manchester United with a knee problem. Having already missed a big chunk of the season with a thigh problem – he sat out 15 games between August and November – it’s clear the manager is worried.
While the club try to figure out the extent of the latest injury, Arteta ruled him out of Friday’s trip to Manchester City.
“I don’t think he will be [available]. Obviously, he had some issues in his knee that we see at the moment and we have to see how he evolves in the next couple of days,” the boss told his pre-game press conference.
“There are concerns. Especially as Mo is a player that never complains about anything. Let’s see.”
As things stand, Thomas Partey, our first-choice midfield anchor, is fit and playing the best football of his Arsenal career but with a history of fitness problems since he arrived at Atletico Madrid you can understand why we might want cover. While Elneny is a worthy understudy, if the Egyptian is sidelined, there’s little confidence anyone else in the current squad could have the same impact.
Asked if he needs to make another signing in the January transfer window, Arteta said: “Well, we need some more cover in midfield if we can but obviously in this market, it’s pretty complicated to do that.
“As I always say, the most important thing is that we get the performances and the time on the pitch that we need with the players we have available today that are already really good.”
There is just under a week of the transfer window left and links with alternatives are thin on the ground. On the plus side, the boss is pleased with the acquisition of Jakub Kiwior from Spezia; a player who has a history as a defensive midfielder but has been recruited to provide support to Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba and Rob Holding.
“He gives us more cover. Obviously we’ve been with three central defenders for the first part of the season, which is very short [on numbers],” said Arteta.
“We’ve been lucky with injuries [in that position] but we needed to recruit in that position. Jakub, as you said, has played in different roles and is a versatile player who is going to strengthen the team. If anything else is available that can make us better, we’ll look at it.”
Arteta was also asked for an update on Gabriel Jesus’ rehabilitation after the Brazilian suggested in a private conversation recorded at the weekend that he’s targeting a return to action in four to five weeks’ time.
Not for the first time, the Spaniard wouldn’t be drawn into putting a timeframe on the striker’s recovery from knee surgery.
“With him, I don’t know. He wants to be here next week but it’s totally unrealistic but he’s pushing and driving everybody there to the limits. I cannot give you an answer, hopefully, it will be weeks and not months. It was a serious injury and we need to respect that process as well.”
While he’s not available for selection, Arteta has been very pleased with the way Jesus has conducted himself in and around the squad.
“He’s been incredible with the boys, with the staff and everybody around. His energy, how positive he is towards the boys, he’s always giving them advice, always next to them.”