Arsenal quick to sign backup

An energetic holding midfielder, Mohamed Elneny (far left) is seen as an ideal reinforcement for Arsenal’s injury-hit midfield, as the Gunners prepare for an assault on their first English Premier League title since 2004.
An energetic holding midfielder, Mohamed Elneny (far left) is seen as an ideal reinforcement for Arsenal’s injury-hit midfield, as the Gunners prepare for an assault on their first English Premier League title since 2004. PHOTO: REUTERS

Injury-hit Gunners seal deal with Elneny even before January transfer window opens

LONDON • When the summer transfer window closed in September, Arsenal were the only team in the top five European leagues not to sign an outfield player.

But, even before next month's transfer window opens on Saturday, the Gunners have already moved to seal the signing of Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny for a fee that could rise as high as £7.4 million (S$15.5 million).

Manager Arsene Wenger, typically inactive following the turn of the year, hinted that he is willing to do more business in the next month.

"I will be busy, that is for sure. I have already said we are short," he told a press conference yesterday.

Despite an injury crisis this season, when at least 10 first-team players were sidelined at some point, Arsenal still lead the English Premier League after 19 games.

With five of the last six leaders on New Year's Day eventually lifting the title, the hope is that Elneny will help Arsenal ease their midfield injury crisis and play a role in landing their first title since 2004.

He passed his medical examination in Paris on Tuesday and will join Wenger's side as soon as he receives a work permit. As a regular for FC Basel, the perennial Swiss champions, and with 39 international caps, he is unlikely to have visa problems.

The 23-year-old is not expected to be available for selection against Newcastle United on Saturday, but his arrival will provide Wenger with much-needed reinforcement in midfield, where Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, and Mikel Arteta have been sidelined by injury in recent weeks.

An energetic holding midfielder, Elneny is seen as cover for those absentees in the short term, and competition for the starting spots in the long run.

Meanwhile, Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham have valued Andros Townsend at £14 million in a proposed swop deal involving the England winger and Saido Berahino, the West Bromwich Albion striker whom they failed to sign in the summer.

Baggies manager Tony Pulis effectively called time on Berahino's career at the club after saying that the striker was lucky to be on the substitutes' bench in the wake of Monday's 1-0 win over Newcastle.

Pulis has been unhappy with him being overweight and needs funds to strengthen his side with another striker and winger.

West Brom do not want the two proposed transfers to be related and are mindful that Tottenham offered very little of a £22.5 million transfer fee up front for Berahino in the summer, while £3 million in proposed add-ons was highly unlikely to be paid.

Townsend, who has not played for Tottenham since coming on as a substitute away to Anderlecht on Oct 22, could be the key. He was fined by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino for an altercation with the club's fitness coach Nathan Gardiner last month.

At the other end of the table, 15th-placed Norwich are heading the chase for Everton forward Steven Naismith as they look to strengthen their strike force to stay in the top flight.

While it is understood that no fee has yet been agreed between the two clubs, Norwich are pursuing an £8 million move to take him to Carrow Road. Alex Neil's side are three points and three places above the relegation zone but Nathan Redmond, their top scorer, has scored only four league goals.

Norwich failed with a similar bid for Naismith at the end of the last window in the summer when Everton manager Roberto Martinez refused to sanction the move.

Sunderland, Swansea City, Aston Villa and Newcastle United are believed to be the other clubs interested in the 29-year-old's services.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'ARSENAL QUICK TO SIGN BACKUP'. Print Edition | Subscribe