Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1281, (4 - 10 February 2016)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1281, (4 - 10 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Roma’s other Egyptian

A new coach and a player with Egyptian roots ­­— besides Mohamed Salah — could save Roma’s season, reports Mohamed Abdel-Razek

Al-Ahram Weekly

Starting the season with a campaign to win the Serie A was great news for every Roma fan. Signing Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko was serious proof from the board of Roma that they were looking to strengthen their squad. However, when the team started the season and viewers got a closer look at the team, the squad didn’t seem to be that strong. Francesco Totti is crossing the finish line of his career and Dzeko doesn’t seem to be settling in Italy, so the whole team started to rely on Salah and Gervinho at the front. Luckily, they impressed at the beginning of the season, scoring almost six goals each. But for a team playing for the league title and playing in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, relying on two players for an entire season with less effective subs on the bench is close to suicide.

Then, the worst happened. On 8 November Salah was injured against Lazio and was out for a month. With fewer choices in hand, the French manager Rudi Garcia had a tough time trying to put the Giallorossi machine back to its ideal operation. Other players like Miralem Pjanic, who scored 10 goals this season, tried to fill the void left by Salah, but his efforts seemed not to be enough. After Salah’s injury was a draw against Bologna, and after that the historic 6-1 defeat in the Camp Nou against Barcelona in the Champions League group stage. Then came a defeat by Atalanta 2-0 in Roma’s own Stadio Olimpico. With only one win and seven draws from December to late January, the board decided that the time had come for Garcia to leave.

Luciano Spalletti was the replacement to try and rescue the season for Roma, but with only two matches managing the team, Spalletti realised how difficult his job will be with the options in hand. Worse, most of his weapons are out of ammo, especially Salah who came back from his injury but not to his game. So, with the transfer window still open, why not bring in some fresh legs to the squad, a young player who already knows every Italian ground and won’t cost much at the moment? That is probably how Spalletti was thinking before choosing Stephan Al-Shaarawi to be his saviour.

Al-Shaarawi, nicknamed Il Faraone (The Pharaoh), as his father is Egyptian, had a tough time with his club AC Milan in seasons 2014 and 2015, a fact which pushed him to try and get some fresh air in France, precisely in Monaco last summer. With only 15 appearances with the French side since the beginning of the current season, both sides weren’t quite happy. Al-Shaarawi with goalless stats didn’t seem to be settling in France. Before reaching 25 appearances, which would have made his contract permanent with Monaco, the contract was terminated and Roma took the straightforward opportunity to sign the potential star on a €1.4m loan with an option to join permanently at the end of the season for a €13m deal.

“I am thrilled joining Roma. It’s a fresh start for my career and I will make sure to take advantage of it,” Al-Shaarawi said.

Al-Shaarawi made it clear that he was looking to get back to the Italian front line, hopefully to be chosen for Euro 2016. For Roma, the player seems to be fully charged, ready to perform. Questions have been raised as to how best to take advantage of Al-Shaarawi in the Roma squad. Will he replace Salah? Will he wait on the bench for his chance to come?

Al-Shaarawi had earlier said he was comfortable playing on the left flank, cutting to the midfield, exactly what Salah was doing with Roma. However, Salah showed flexibility during a game, switching positions with players in the right left, middle and even the striker.

So Spalletti, with only slight changes in the squad, can go full power with a 3-4-2-1 formation with the usual three at the back, Rudiger, Manolas and De-Rossi, with the option of changing De-Rossi with Kieta. In the middle is the usual Florenzi on the right and the Belgian Nainggolan in the middle besides Pjanic and the French Degne on the left.

The front lines will revolve around four players: Salah on the right flank, Al-Shaarawi on the left and Gervinho in the front as a solo striker with an option of replacing him with Dzeko.

All what is clear now is that Roma are at present full of multi-purpose players who can play in all areas on the pitch, giving Spalletti greater freedom and opportunity to start winning some games.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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