Egypt's Elneny speaks to Arsenal: 'I'm very comfortable here'

Ahram Online , Thursday 19 May 2016

Mohamed Elneny feels lucky to play at Arsenal, talks about his experience, the goal he scored against Barcelona and the Egyptian national team's situation in continental qualifiers, in an interview with Arsenal magazine

Arsenal's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny (L) vies with Manchester City's Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 8, 2016 (AFP)

Arsenal's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny has expressed delight over his move to Arsenal, praising the club and his teammates.

"I’m very comfortable here and happy that my family have joined me now," the 23-year-old Mahallah-born footballer, who joined the Premier League giants in January, told Arsenal’s monthly magazine in a lengthy interview published early May.

"I consider myself very lucky to have joined Arsenal. It’s a massive club, one of the biggest clubs in the world. I feel like I have joined a big family rather than a football club," he said.

"The members of the family complete each other, from Arsene Wenger to the ground staff. Even the club’s chairman is part of this family. I like to speak and joke with everyone and they all treat me the same," Elneny added.

"I don’t want just to adapt to the Premier League, I want to be an important player for Arsenal. When I think like this, it gives me the determination and mentality to motivate myself and to succeed at my new club."

Elneny under Wenger's wing

The former Basel star also spoke about his relationship with the Gunners coach and how Elneny values his guidance.

"The most important thing for me has been listening to Arsene Wenger’s advice and putting it into action," he said

"He often instructs me to press the opponent and not give them time on the ball in our half. He’s also helped me to understand the system and playing style he prefers to see us playing."

"I used to shoot a lot when I was at Basel, but sometimes this doesn’t suit our style here. He taught me to be more of a team player rather than taking chances on my own and shooting from long range," Elneny explained.

Emotions conflict over goal against Barcelona

Elneny also spoke about his conflicting emotions after scoring against Barcelona when his team was defeated 3-1 at the Camp Nou in mid March at the UEFA Champions League.

"It was the first time in my career that I’ve scored a goal and not known whether I should celebrate or not because of the aggregate score. But I was very delighted to score my first goal for the club and at such a prestigious ground like the Nou Camp. It was such a beautiful feeling but I was still disappointed after the final whistle because we failed to go through to the next round of the competition. I think we played well against them over the two legs but it wasn’t meant to be."

"Personally, I prefer to play in big games. I find them easier than playing against average teams, even though easy fixtures don’t exist in the Premier League. The reason I find them easier is because you are maybe more focused and concentrated on winning the game if you’re playing the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid," he expressed.

‘I want to be an important player for Arsenal’

He also spoke about the influence of big names he is playing beside in the Gunners squad, including Mesut Ozil, Alexis and Danny Welbeck.

"Being surrounded by players of such a high calibre provides me with a great learning opportunity. The names you have mentioned have got ample experience and have played on football’s biggest stages, such as the World Cup. Some have even won it, therefore I like to watch and learn from everything they do from the time I spend with them on the training ground, when they are warming up and are in the dressing room, even checking the way they communicate with fans on social media!"

"I have developed a strong partnership with Coquelin on and off the pitch. As I mentioned before, we are like family members," he continued.

“I don’t want just to adapt to the Premier League, I want to be an important player for Arsenal. When I think like this, it gives me the determination and mentality to motive myself and to succeed at my new club.”

‘I learned a lot from the Egyptian fans’

The Pharaohs star also talked about his national team’s situation in the ongoing continental competitions, hoping that Egyptians fans return to the stands after years of security ban.

"I think we are 99 percent qualified. Our last game is against Tanzania away and even if we lose the game we can still qualify. Of course we will go there to win the match to bring Egypt back to where it belongs on the African and international stage," Elneny explained.

The seven-time African champions – who are within reach of a place at next year's Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010 – are at the top of Group G of the qualifiers with seven points, five ahead of second-placed Nigeria. They will play Tanzania in June.

"100 million Egyptians have the same dream, to qualify for the World Cup again. I would love to be part of a team that reaches the World Cup. The national team has a group of good players and we all want to achieve something badly as a team.

Egypt is now in the first class of the continental ranking after placing fifth in the African ranking, helping the Pharaohs for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

"You can’t play football without fans. It doesn’t work. The political situation in Egypt didn’t allow the fans to attend football matches for a while, but I think this is changing now. There are many people who are working hard to bring things back to normal. Let’s discuss your early career."

Spectators were banned from stadiums since February 2012 due to successive security disasters that caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.

"In Egypt we love football. I love the passion the fans have for the game. I have learnt a lot from the fans in Egypt whom I love and respect, and I am not saying this because I am an Egyptian," Elneny concluded.

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