Egyptian Premier League talking points for 2021-22 season

Ahram Online , Thursday 1 Sep 2022

Talking points from the Egyptian Premier League after the 2021-22 season was concluded on Tuesday



Zamalek's extraordinary season

Zamalek were written off by many before the start of the season. The reason was simple: the team were prevented from making any new signings due to a FIFA transfer ban.

A poor start to the season, which saw Zamalek wave goodbye to the African Champions League from the group stage, fueled that sentiment as the White Knights were also inconsistent in the Premier League.

The arrival of coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who was brought in for a second stint in March, proved a masterstroke as he masterminded a stunning reversal in fortunes, building a new team after injecting fresh blood from the youth academy and altering his tactics to more conservative ones.

Zamalek then embarked on a 10-match winning run which, coupled with the inconsistency of main challengers Ahly and Pyramids FC, powered them to a second consecutive league crown.

Zizo effect

Winger Ahmed Zizo proved the standout performer in Zamalek's triumphant league campaign, with his impressive haul of 19 goals and 14 assists making all the difference.

The 26-year-old was at his spot-kick prowess peak, having converted 10 out of 11 penalties.

His pinpoint set-pieces also helped Zamalek grind out difficult and narrow wins over the likes of Arab Contractors and Future FC, with his inviting corners in particular wreaking havoc.  

Ahly's worst position in 30 years

Ahly, the record league winners with 42 titles, had a season to forget, finishing out of the top two for the first time since 1992.

The Red Devils could only finish third behind Zamalek and second-placed Pyramids FC, having apparently paid the price of the sudden departure of South African coach Pitso Mosimane, who left in June by "mutual consent".

His successor, Portuguese boss Ricardo Soares, failed to spark a revival after winning only eight matches out of 16, drawing five and losing three times.

A board decision to rest the majority of key players after the team had lost hope to challenge for the title contributed to a drastic slump in form towards the end of the season, with Ahly eventually pipped to the runners-up spot by Pyramids FC.

Pyramids' best ever position

Pyramids finished third in each of their three seasons under Arab Gulf owners, but they went one better this time around for their best-ever position.

The Emirati-owned club also at times looked genuine title challengers before a painful 3-0 loss to Zamalek in early August all but ended their hopes of causing a huge upset.

Pyramids believe there was little to separate the three top teams but they are determined to have another shot for the coveted trophy next season.

Future FC's fine debut season

Future FC made a fine impact in their maiden season in the top flight, having reaped the rewards of spending big last summer to bolster their squad.

They finished fourth to earn a place in the African Confederation Cup, the continent's secondary club competition.

Striker Ahmed Atef and winger Ahmed Refaat, who are reportedly targeted by Ahly, produced some impressive displays throughout the season to propel Future to a fourth-place finish.

Both players scored nine goals each, with Refaat also providing seven assists. Cameroonian left-back Jonathan Ngwem also shone with eight assists.

Abdel-Monsef's record

Ittihad of Alexandria's veteran goalkeeper Mohamed Abdel-Monsef became the most capped player in the Premier League history, eclipsing the record of Egypt's iconic goalie Essam El-Hadary.

The 45-year-old took his tally to 454 appearances, three clear of El-Hadary. Abdel-Monsef set that record over the course of 26 consecutive seasons, an international record he shares with former Argentinean keeper Hugo Gatti.

Abdel-Monsef said he would hang up his gloves following the end of the season, ending a decorated career.

Portuguese influence

Three Premier League clubs, including Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek, turned to Portuguese coaches to rescue their season.

Top-flight debutants Pharco also made a similar move, bringing in Nuno Almeida in March. He made an instant impact, instilling defensive discipline as the team drew 13 times, won four games and lost only four to finish eighth in the table.

Jesualdo Ferreira's arrival at Zamalek also turned the season on its head but Ahly were not as lucky, with their appointment of former Gil Vicente boss Ricardo Soares failing to pay off.

Maqassa's relegation

A woeful season for Maqassa saw them suffer relegation to the second division for the first time since sealing promotion to the Premier League in 2010.

They could only win two out of 34 games, losing 23 times. Their demotion was confirmed with four rounds to spare when they were thrashed 5-0 by Zamalek on 9 August.

Eastern Company's Premier League adventure proved short-lived as they also waved goodbye to the top flight in their penultimate match after slumping to a bitter 3-2 loss to NBE Club.

Gouna, who are based in a Red Sea resort carrying the same name, were the other team to be relegated after finishing third from bottom.

Drawn-out season

For the second straight year, it took organizers 10 months to complete another drawn-out season.

The majority of Premier League clubs rejected a proposal to change the league's format before the season got underway. Organizers sought to stage the competition in a two-group format to shorten the season, to no avail.

The season was interrupted for lengthy spells, especially due to Egypt's African Cup of Nations campaign in January and February as well as the commitments of the likes of Ahly, Zamalek and Pyramids in continental competitions.

With Egypt qualifying for the Nations Cup final and Ahly reaching the Champions League final, the season was further prolonged.

The Premier League insisted that it will meet its target to finish the competition by June next season.

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