Elmohamady impact at Sunderland not too tangible, but promising

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 24 May 2011

Ahram Online reflects on Ahmed Elmohamady’s debut season in the Premier League with Sunderland

Ahmed Elmohamady

Ahmed Elmohamady lived up to the expectations of Sunderland coach Steve Bruce, who said from the very beginning he did not expect much from the Egyptian winger in his debut season but believed he was a hot prospect for the future.

The right-wing back, who is more of an attacking player but can fulfil defensive duties, realized a "dream" after joining Sunderland from Egyptian side ENPPI on a season-long loan last summer after prolonged negotiations.

Settling in the elite competition is never an easy target, especially for Egyptian players who usually feel homesick when they abandon their star status in their homeland to experience a new and much more difficult adventure.

Elmohamady was also burdened with the responsibility of erasing bitter memories left by some of his compatriots in England, including burly striker Amr Zaki, now at Zamalek, and central midfielder Hossam Ghaly, now at Ahly.

Zaki made a very promising start to his English campaign with Wigan Athletic, scoring ten goals to top the scorers’ chart in the first half of the 2008/2009 season, but constant disciplinary problems sealed his fate and forced him to return home. He later had a brief and unsuccessful spell with Hull City.

Ghaly was a regular starter at Tottenham Hotspur but he infamously threw his shirt to the ground after being substituted in a league game in 2007, an action he was never forgiven for, and he ended his English stint prematurely.

“He is different,” Bruce, who managed two Egyptian players in Zaki and Ahmed Hossam "Mido", said of Elmohamady few months after he moved to the Stadium of Light.

“He is a frustration at times, he is a bit naïve, but he has blistering pace and he is fantastic in the air for the size of him.

"He has been a fantastic addition for us, somebody who has taken to it and is enjoying the challenges of playing in the Premier League.

“I can say that the Egyptian players I have had in the past have proved a bit difficult, if that's the right word.

"He is delightful kid, who wants to try and do it right, and he has been very impressive."  

Two assists, constant menace

Elmohamady, who made 36 appearances, 10 as a substitute, quickly gelled into the team, at times providing cover at the back in Sunderland’s traditional 4-4-2 formation. But he really shone when he poured forward to support forwards.

He caused constant menace to opposing back-lines with his trademark darting runs down the right flank and pinpoint crosses, which strangely bore fruit on just a couple of occasions throughout the season.

Elmohamady’s first assist came on the first of January during Sunderland’s 3-0 Premier League victory over Blackburn Rovers.

He had a hand in Sunderland’s opener when Blackburn defence failed to properly clear his cross and striker Danny Welbeck pounced to send a deflected shot past the keeper, before he directly set-up Darren Bent for the second goal.

Blackburn’s backline gave him too much space on the right and the unopposed Elmohamady whipped in a curling cross for Bent to send a glancing header into the far corner of the net.

The 23-year-old’s second assist came four months later in the final day of the season as Sunderland finished tenth, matching the top-half finish prediction of Bruce, after crushing already-relegated West Ham United 3-0.

He helped Sunderland open the scoring after 17 minutes when his cross from the right found veteran Dutch midfielder Boudewijn Zenden, whose looping header went into the net.

He suffered something of a dip in form in between those two assists, with Sunderland as a whole struggling to maintain a good start to the season as they eventually missed out on the possibility of playing in next season’s Europa League, the continent’s secondary club competition.

Elmohamady’s disciplinary record was also remarkable, as he collected a sole yellow card.

He now has a chance to make up for past Egyptian woes in the Premier League and carve out a successful career there, with Sunderland moving swiftly to tie him down to a permanent deal.

“I am very pleased for my fans in Egypt that Sunderland want me to stay permanently," Elmohamady, who could not score his maiden English goal this season, said.

"Not many Egyptian players play outside the country and it is good for them to see people playing in Europe.

"This is what they hope to see and it is very good for the game in Egypt."

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