Arsene Wenger has hinted that he plans to use central midfielder Mohamed Elneny at centre-back on a regular basis this season, praising the Egypt international for his positional flexibility in a pre-season press conference.
Going into his 22nd season with the club, Wenger looks set to use the same three at the back formation with which his side ended the season. With Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel ahead of him in the pecking order, Elneny is being tested in order to provide depth to a defence frequently plagued by injuries.
Speaking this week, Wenger said: "Elneny is a player who has a fantastic mentality and attitude, and his main target is to help the team. When he plays there [centre back], of course, he does extremely well. I always felt that a good central midfielder can be a good centre back."
Wenger also touched on his decision to use Elneny as part of a three-man defence but not a flat back four, saying: "Of course that when you’re playing in the back four you have to be decisive in the challenges, you have a bit more flexibility in the middle of a back three. He can do that."
Elneny's passing abilities and lack of physicality compared to his other defensive allies make him ideal for a back three, as he is able to do a job that the other defenders can not.
Since joining the club in 2016 from Basel for £10m, the Egyptian has been used fleetingly in midfield, making 40 appearances over the two seasons with the Gunners. Now with more experience behind him and at 25 years of age, this new role could reignite his Arsenal career and we may see more of Elneny, the centre back, this season.