22 Midfielder Chelsea Egypt
2014 has been...
Mohamed Salah’s introduction to English football was always going to be subject to expectations heightened by his knack for scoring against English opposition. Not every Egyptian forward outside of Europe’s major leagues becomes a household name by dishing out bloody noses, but Salah did exactly that before his chief victims took action by acquiring him for themselves.
Understandably, Salah has found his football rather limited since moving to Chelsea in January. He remains, though, a vital component for the Egyptian national side, where he recently scored in two qualifiers but had previously been at the centre of a row after national team coach Shawky Gharib blamed an Egyptian loss on Chelsea’s treatment of his star player.
Certainly it seems that Salah isn’t impressing Jose Mourinho as much as he would have hoped. The former Al Mokawloon man started six Premier League games and came on as a substitute in four last season, a modest record not even matched in the new-look front line this term, and Mourinho publicly challenged him to up his game after the League Cup match against Shrewsbury Town in October. Criticism is growing elsewhere also.
It’s all very different to the months after his transfer. Branislav Ivanovic compared him in January to the style of Arjen Robben, while Mourinho said that Chelsea had done very well to sign him and suggested that Salah’s workrate played a part in his willingness to allow Juan Mata and Kevin de Bruyne to move on.
Salah’s game is marked out by lovely vision and patchy execution. His first touch is tidy enough and he has the upper body strength to be a difficult physical presence on the ball in the outside forward positions. He’s a keen dribbler, links well with team-mates and tends to be a big part of counter-attacks. He’s quick, but not lightning-quick; by way of an example he was absolutely destroyed for pace by Raheem Sterling back in April.
Salah works back well and plays with good confidence when he’s at his best. It’s an attribute that isn’t as prevalent now as it was in the spring, when a brilliant finish against Arsenal capped a thumping Chelsea win. He’s an exciting and fearless forward, dynamic and athletic, and he has plenty of time to find his feet, work his way into the rhythm of Premier League football and get amongst the goals.
Not military service, thankfully. Salah had to face the possibility of three years’ national service when a change in his circumstances made it possible in the summer, but the Egyptian Prime Minister intervened and met with ministers to ensure that the Pharaohs’ foremost heir to Mohamed Aboutrika can continue his football career.
Back in January Salah wasn’t short of suitors. Atletico Madrid, Internazionale, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Zenit St Petersburg and Borussia Dortmund were all briefly mentioned in the press, but it was Liverpool who looked likeliest to sign him almost until the moment his switch to Chelsea was announced with a week or so remaining of the transfer window.
He won’t be short of interest having been told he can leave this coming January either. Tottenham Hotspur were linked with a January move for Salah a couple of months ago, and a change of that type mightn’t be the worst move for him.
Six months away at another Premier League might have been exactly what he needs, whereas a permanent transfer will be a step backwards to move forwards. Maybe that’s even better for him.
"Time is running out for Salah at Stamford Bridge. Reports of him being allowed to leave in January aren’t surprising but he’s got plenty to show that Chelsea fans have only seen against their team, not for it. Salah needs a stable move and 2015 must be about getting back in the groove. He hasn’t become a so-called “flop” overnight." - Chris Nee
"Since joining Chelsea in January, Salah has featured in just 12 league matches (six as a sub). The club have played 27." - OptaJoe
D Chelsea might have been a big move too soon.
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