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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Salah, Hegazi, Elneny and Ramadan - Who will shine in the Premier League?

Ahram Online is providing an analysis of the Egyptian players' chances of impressing in the English Premier League in the new season

Omar Zaazou , Friday 11 Aug 2017
Views: 2667
Views: 2667

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

After making a Premier League return to Liverpool, Egypt star winger Mohamed Salah will be hoping of a fruitful spell at Anfield this time around, unlike his previous Chelsea stint in 2014.

Moving to the Merseyside from Serie A runners-up AS Roma for a record fee, reported to be in the region of 34million euros, Salah will now be looking forward to stamping his mark in England as he did in Italy.

And the early signs have been quite encouraging for the 25-year-old, who managed to score four goals in six preseason games for his new team.

An understanding seems to have also been struck up with team star and Barcelona-target Philippe Coutinho, who set up Salah with two goals - including a brilliant looping effort in a 3-0 victory over Hertha Berlin.       

The goal against the Germans came just 16 minutes after Salah's introduction as a half-time substitute, replacing the fit-again Sadio Mane - who made his comeback from a knee injury that kept him out of action since April.

As a result the main talking point has been how Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp would accommodate both Salah and Mane, with both wingers mainly playing on the right.

Salah had already started Liverpool's three warm-up games before the Hertha Berlin match, with the arrival of the Senegalese forward seeing the ex-Roma winger start on the bench.

 “In specific games, yes, it’s possible," Klopp said when asked if he would be changing Mane's position.

“But Sadio could play on the right and Mo (Salah) could play as the No 10. No problem.

“Mo can even play as the No 9. He was the striker, the second striker, at times for Roma. We have lots of different options."

The problem arises from the fact that Klopp mainly deployed a 4-3-3 format during the past season, with the inclusion of both Salah and Mane in the team's attack probably meaning Coutinho dropping into midfield.

This is what exactly happened when Liverpool defeated Bayern Munich 2-0 in a pre-season friendly, with Coutinho playing in a deep role behind a three-pronged attack comprising Mane, Salah and Firmino.

So far, ex-Chelsea winger Salah has managed to earn praise from his teammates with his preseason displays, with Cameroonian center-back Joel Matip particularly full of praise for his fellow African.   

"Salah already played in England. He has high skills at dribbling, tempo and finishing and he makes defenders despair," Liverpool defender Matip said.

"There is so much quality in attack, the right pace and it will be hard for our opponents to stop them."

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum also heaped praise on Salah, who was described by the Dutch as "flying" in reference to his sheer pace.

"He's really flying. I didn't see his goal because I was in the changing room but I heard it was a good goal," Wijnaldum told, referring to Salah's looping effort against Hertha Berlin.

"He has settled in really well. He's not only a great player but also a great person, and that makes it easier for him but also for us to accept him.

"Since the moment he came here, he felt free to be himself. It's a good thing for us."

Salah dropping to the bench with Mane continually preferred over him in the upcoming season seems somewhat far-fetched, given the former's exorbitant fee – the highest-ever for an African player.

But how will Klopp make the most of the qualities at his disposal remains to be seen, with Liverpool having Champions League games to vie for - as well as Premier League matches - in the upcoming season.   

Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom)

A new Premier League arrival who looks to have already booked a starting berth at his new club is Egypt center-back Ahmed Hegazi, currently on a one-year loan at West Bromwich Albion from Cairo giants Ahly.

Hegazi, who had a previous spell at Serie A side Fiorentina, will be looking forward to igniting his overseas career - having seen his spell in Italy continually plagued by injury problems.

Like his Egypt teammate Salah, the 26-year-old Hegazi has been mainly a regular in his side's preseason games, starting all four matches for manger Tony Pulis.  

The strategy deployed by the ultra-defensive Pulis seems to suit the towering Hegazi, with the West Brom boss usually defending deep as he looks to hit opponents on the break.

And given the lack of speed of the 1.95m-tall Hegazi's, his problems high up the pitch are not likely to be exposed so often under a manger renowned of his tactical nous in organizing his teams defensively.

But whether the injury-prone Hegazi would not see injuries haunt him once again cannot be guaranteed, with the English Premier League a competition known for its great physicality.    

Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)

Unlike his fellow Egyptians in England, a midfielder unlikely to command a regular place in his club's lineup is Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny, given manager Arsene Wenger's wealth of options in the middle of the pitch.

Preseason games have seen Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey occupy Wenger's two midfield slots, as the manager still continues with his 3-4-3 format.

Wenger attempted to experiment with Elneny as a center-back in the middle of a three-man defense in games against Bayern Munich and Sevilla – with the Frenchman eventually opting against using the Egyptian at the back in the future.

"I have many midfielders, but overall I don’t think in the future he (Elneny) will be a centre-back." Wenger said after his side's 2-1 win over Sevilla where Elneny featured as a defender.

The Arsenal boss's comments came somewhat as a contradiction to earlier statements made by him, having said that the 25-year-old midfielder did 'extremely well' at the back.

"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 was previously quoted as saying.

Despite not guaranteeing a regular role, Elneny – who has made 40 appearances since joining from Basel in January 2016 - has reportedly refused to move to Leicester City who approached Arsenal to sign the ex-Basel midfielder.  

Turkish media has also reported that giants Galatasaray were in talks with Arsenal regarding a potential move for their Egyptian midfielder.

But Elneny insisted he is not going anywhere and was one of Arsenal's best performers in a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield, the annual curtain raiser of the season.

Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City)

The transfer of winger Marco Arnautovic to West Ham seems to have given Ramadan Sobhi a timely chance to start regularly for Stoke City, with the ex-Ahly man now facing less competition out wide.   

He has been a regular in Stoke's preseason games, which have seen him create a goal for his side with a well-executed through pass in a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield United.

Even so, manager Mark Hughes still believes the 20-year-old winger should continue to improve and do more if he is to book a starting berth.

“Sobhi has a chance to make the starting XI if he continues to improve,” Hughes told

“He’s done ok. He’s not where he needs to be as yet. We feel there is more to come and we all know that.

"He was a little bit behind the group and he’s had a busy summer, with getting married and all that upheaval – if that’s the right word! – in his life.

“He now needs to focus on football and getting ready for the season. He’s shown good signs and flashes once again, but there is more to come from him, we know.”

With his composure and flamboyant dribbling skills, Sobhi has managed to catch the eyes with his 17 appearances at Stoke last season.

Should Sobhi manage to become a regular at the bet365 Stadium, the Egyptian is likely to be a major source of headache for opponents down the flank.

He was given a boost ahead of the start the season after Stoke granted him a five-year contract extension. 

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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