Mohamed Salah’s Chelsea career thus far was spent almost exclusively on the periphery, with the occasional tentative toe dipped into first-team waters deemed too deep for him to swim in.
Now on loan at Fiorentina he cuts a completely different character, savaging Serie A defences while the man he played makeweight for, Juan Cuadrado, kicks his heels on the Blues bench.
The Egyptian rates a reasonable 9/4 to notch at anytime when his temporary employers tackle Roma in the first-leg of the inter-Italian Europa League last 16 tie and based on current form there’s an excellent chance of the punt landing.
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Salah has scored in each of three competitions he has appeared in for La Viola, bagging six in five starts so far.
The 22-year-old is playing with a freedom and confidence Jose Mourinho’s disciplined, restrictive strategy never afforded him, while the Portuguese’s tendency to stick with his favoured players prevented him from featuring regularly.
When the opportunity to swap Salah for Cuadrado arose, the Blues were desperate to do the deal, but the former’s brilliance in filling the Colombian’s shoes suggests they’ve made an enormous error.
His temporary stint at the Artemio Franchi is set to run until the end of the 2015/16 season, but upon his return the west London club simply must find a way to accommodate their underrated Egyptian.
A lack of pace and direct running was evident in Chelsea’s away-goals loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, with a key factor behind the absence of guile in their performance a distinct lack of width.
Eden Hazard is arguably the only midfielder in the team who is permitted to exemplify his attacking prowess to the fullest extent, with Willian selected primarily for his willingness to defend and Oscar often suffocated through their unwavering insistence on being as compact as possible.
Relinquishing Willian and deploying a winger with similar programming to the Blues’ light-footed Belgian, such as Salah, against opponents such as PSG – where the onus is on them to assert attacking authority – will be key to future successes.