Sobhi or Not Sobhi, That is the Question
When Ramadan Sobhi joined Stoke City for £5 million in the summer, there was a degree of expectancy on the young man’s shoulders before he had even set foot on British soil. Nothing short of a legion of Egyptian fans took to social media to explain to Stoke fans what the club were getting themselves in for.
A promising, skilful and pacey winger, described as one of the most exciting Egyptian exports since none other than Middlesbrough’s Mido. However, for Stoke fans there was also a hint of apprehension. In recent years the club has not been known to bring in young talent, so how would Sobhi fit into the side?
Stoke currently have the second oldest squad in the Premier League. 28 years and 2 months makes the only side with an older average age Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion. It appears neither of our most recent managers have a tendency to encourage youth development. Excluding Ramadan Sobhi, the youngest player to sign for Stoke during Mark Hughes’ tenure was Juan Agudelo. The American infamously never even got to England, never mind making an impact on the first team.
Apart from the American there have been a couple of relatively young loan signings. John Guidetti and Victor Moses were brought in but failed to make a lasting impact, especially the former, and they weren’t even teenagers. Youth team prospects such as Julien Ngoy, Thibaud Verlinden and Joel Taylor have had fleeting stints on the bench but are yet to get game time with the first team. However, the main young gun hoping to make an impact is of course Ramadan Sobhi.
At 19 years old, if the Egyptian were given the opportunity he would be the first teenager to start in the league for Stoke City since the club returned to the top flight in 2008. So far this season he featured as a sub against League 2 Stevenage in the EFL cup. A short stint on the pitch but an exciting one for Stoke fans. Sobhi looked to take on his man and get something going for the Premier League outfit. A sumptuous one touch pass, pacey runs to the by-line and his composure on the ball were the highlights of a strong first performance in England.
After this promising start, Sobhi had to wait until the next round of the newly named EFL cup to make an impact. However, this time it was a start instead of a cameo appearance from the bench. And Ramadan didn’t disappoint. The fleeting view of his talent away at Stevenage was similar to what was delivered against Hull. For a player of his age, Sobhi displays impressive composure, trickery and a delightful turn of pace. With time he could definitely become one of our most influential attacking forces. One issue that is in need of development is his decision making. Sometimes there is an opportunity for a cross or a shot and a brief moment of hesitation means the chance is lost.
Despite being one of the best players on the pitch in mid-week Hughes strangely decided to not include Sobhi in the following match day squad for our vital fixture against West Brom. Many fans labelled this one as a must win, and the fact of the matter is that we didn’t win. Sobhi couldn’t have stopped the late set piece goal from going in but he could have helped with the endemic problems seen at the other end of the pitch. With only two shots on target it is clear that creating chances is still a huge problem for Hughes’ side, and with both WBA full backs on a yellow card, the closing stages of the game could have been the perfect Premier League berth for Sobhi to come on and cause problems. Unfortunately, we were left wondering what could have been, as Crouch, Adam and Diouf were the players that came off the bench. Maybe next time.
Two months into the winger’s time with Stoke City we are still left wondering at what sort of role Ramadan Sobhi will take up. With a fully fit squad the wings are one of strongest positions, Arnautovic and Shaqiri taking up the left and right wings respectively. However, during the business end of any game there is always space for fresh legs on either side of the field, and Sobhi could be the perfect young man to fill that role.
Sobhi would have never expected to come into the squad and feature as a starter week in, week out straight away, but with the level of hype that surrounds him from Egyptian fans and a growing feeling of admiration from Stoke fans, one can only hope the hype will influence the man making the decisions too. Whoever that might be over this already tumultuous season.
How do you think Sobhi could fit into Mark Hughes’ and Stoke City’s plans this season?
Let me know on Twitter @bajcartwright
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