If you’d have told me at the end of last season that Latics would be linked with signing 3 of the best performing players in the Egyptian Premier League I’d have assumed you were crazy and told you to get off your Fifa 22 career mode.
But here we are, with just over 3 weeks left of the window there’s still a chance that 1, maybe even 2 Egyptian internationals could rock up at the DW just like their fellow countryman Amr Zaki did 14 years ago. Since then another Egyptian Samy Morsy has captained the club and Mido had a productive spell here too so the Wigan Athletic name is a well known one in North East Africa.
Originally it was 2 goalkeepers, Mahmoud Gad and Gabaski, that were linked with moves from the EPL but several respected news outlets in Egypt are now reporting that Latics have expressed an interest in Zamalek winger Ahmed Sayed. In this article I’ll take a closer look at ‘Zizo’ and look to give Wigan fans an idea of the type of player he is, as I can’t imagine many of you are keen followers of Egyptian top flight football!
What would he bring to the side?
Zizo is a 26 year old forward that has been in unbelievable form in the Egyptian Premier League this season. He’s a player who possesses great acceleration and runs powerfully when he gets going despite having quite a slight figure. Standing at 5’9 he’s deceptively strong but whether that would translate to the more aggressive style of English football is something I’m not 100% convinced on just yet.
Nevertheless he looks like a player massively suited to counter attacking football. His driving runs at speed are complimented by his excellent vision and decision making which allow him to pick the right option in attacking areas more often than not. He has the highest progressive pass accuracy (91.5%) and the 7th highest final third pass accuracy (81.8%) in the league for players under 27 so would be a real creative spark for the club.
The passes he makes are meaningful too. He averages the third highest key passes per 90 (0.8) and the highest expected assists per 90 (0.34) which means that he’s giving the ball to teammates in good areas of the pitch where they can take high xG shots on goal. He also averages 0.18 second assists per 90 which shows how involved he is with his sides attacking phases of play.
For the xG and xA sceptics amongst you you’ll be pleased to hear that his actual assist numbers are the highest in the division, he’s registered 9 this season in the league. It’s a similar tale with his goals too, Zizo’s 19 strikes make him the division’s leading scorer. He’s a player that isn’t afraid of taking aim at goal either and averages 2.5 shots per 90 with 1.05 of those being on target.
Whether its creating them or scoring them Zizo would bring a very useful goal threat to Latics. Having a player of his quality in attacking areas would fill our defence with confidence and his pace could be deadly on the counter attack. At Zamalek this season his runs progress the ball an average of 93m per 90 which is a really good sign for a team like Latics who will need to play on the break at times against possession heavy sides.
To summarise, if Latics were to sign Ahmed Sayed we’d be getting a dynamic winger full of confidence who is capable creating or finishing chances in and around the penalty area. He’s quick, technically gifted and has good decision making so I’m confident that he’d be an excellent addition to our forward line.
Where might he play?
Here’s Zizo’s heat map from the EPL this season, as you can see he’s been deployed mainly as a Right Winger in a 4-2-3-1 system. His role allows him to drift inside into areas where he can deliver through balls, switches of plays or shots on goal, quite similar to how Callum Lang plays in a similar position for Latics.
However, it seems unlikely that we’d be in the market for someone to replace our key man so I wonder if we’d utilise him elsewhere.
He’s played across a front 3 in Egypt as well as in the number 10 role so we’d be able to use him in multiple ways. I doubt he’d feature as a lone striker though as he doesn’t have enough of a physical presence for the way we play. In a 5-2-1-2 he’d be excellent as the 10 or second striker where he can be brought into play by our target man. Otherwise my guess is he’d play out wide.
If played on the left he’d favour cutting inside on his stronger right foot before delivering clipped crosses to the back post or shots on goal. He strikes the ball really well and has netted 4 times from outside the area this season which shows he’s a player capable of creating something from nothing.
Basically we could play him anywhere up top! He adds quality depth and would probably be the final piece of the puzzle in attack after we secured the loan signing of Nathan Broadhead earlier this week.
If, and it is a gigantic if, Latics were able to pull this signing off it would guarantee us survival, there’s no doubt in my mind. It might take him a few weeks to acclimatise to English football but if he plays even half as well as he has done in Egypt this year we’d be loving life. The biggest challenge we would have is the settling in process though.
A huge positive is the fact he’d be surrounded by workers, players that will do the dirty work and allow him to express himself at the top end of the pitch. I’m not suggesting he’s incapable of putting himself about, but if we just let him focus on what he’s good at you’d imagine it would make him a lot more comfortable in a new environment.
Zizo has spent time away from his homeland with spells in Portugal and Belgium earlier on in his career so you’d hope homesickness wouldn’t be an issue. Coming to England for an Arabic footballer is a huge deal and he’d know that a couple of good seasons at Latics would open up the door to a Premier League move, the pinnacle for most footballers across the world.
A fee of £2 million is what it’ll take Latics to bring the 26 year old to the club, a fairly hefty wedge for the club considering we’re still under EFL restrictions. However, for an international player in the prime years of his career – and someone that brings huge brand exposure in his homeland – the financial risk doesn’t seem so great.
Personally I think its a move worth making. It’s a key position in the squad, he’s the right age and profile of player that we should be aiming for and most importantly he’s bloody good at football.
Latics could have a new Egyptian King on their hands…
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