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Totti Today: El Shaar-away?

Will the Pharaoh stay loyal to the legion of Rome or will he return to the sands of Egypt?

FC Internazionale v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Stephan El Shaarawy enjoyed a rather hot ‘n cold 2017-2018. SES featured in a massive 33 Serie A games this season, more than last season, while scoring 7 goals and 4 assists. It’s far from his personal best though, as in 2013 he shot to fame at Milan thanks to his 16 goals in 37 games as a twenty-year-old. In Roma’s successful Champions League run he featured in 10 games, mostly as a sub, scoring 2 goals and 1 assist in the process. SES played a total of 359 minutes in the CL, far less than the true pillars of this team like Fazio, Radja or Dzeko.

Damn, that last line really hurt, didn’t it? Because even though SES is talented as hell (easily top 3 of the current squad), he’s still not in the same category as those three I mentioned earlier. Or Alisson, Manolas and Kolarov for that matter. Sure starters for the coach, players that are consistent throughout the season. The rise of this special kid, Ünder, blocks SES too in a way.

Di Francesco used a lot of combinations up front. Dzeko with Perotti and Under. Perotti with Dzeko and Schick, Dzeko and Schick with Ünder, Dzeko and SES with Perotti... Florenzi, Gerson, even Radja up front. You name it, EDF tried it all. Still, Stephan (in Italy at least) was an ever present for Roma in 2017-2018. Of all attackers only Dzeko clocked in more minutes than him.

Of those 33 games in Serie A he started 25, won 43% of his duels and had a pass accuracy of 83%. He made 942 passes, a lot more than the second best, Perotti with 778. SES has been a good boy as well, since he only got one yellow card this season (including CL!). These seem pretty decent stats and they are. He runs a lot, works for the team and has a great understanding with Florenzi and Dzeko. But don’t we all expect just a little bit more from the Pharaoh?

In Italy we had to wait approx. 309min for a SES goal, if you look at his goal tally versus minutes played. That’s three and a half games. While Stephan never was and never will be a true striker like Dzeko or Batistuta, his efficiency is probably his weak point. SES scored 23 goals in 81 games since joining Roma, not bad but insufficient for a player with his amount of talent while plying his trade up front.

I don’t say he must repeat Salah’s outrageous numbers or become the next Balbo, Montella or Pruzzo in Rome, but 8 goals and 4 assists is the absolute minimum we should expect from him. SES is capable of producing double figures in both areas. He can do so much more. We know this. Stephan should know this. When on fire, he’s one of Italy’s biggest studs and most lethal players.

I did say ‘when’. Because even though this season we got to witness another reel of crazy skills on the ball and some outlandish goals from the Pharoah, there are simply too few highlights from 2017-2018. And that’s his second weak point really. Mentality.

When things go rough and Roma’s knockout in the corner, SES will usually crumble and drown together with the others, instead of standing tall and carrying the team on its back. Totti is the easiest example, but there were others: Vucinic, Mancini, Manolas, De Rossi, Perrotta, Radja,... Perhaps he’s too obedient, too sincere and has to learn from pit bulls like a Radja or Daniele.

SES can turn up and blow you away (go watch the Chelsea home game again), but he can just as easily go AWOL and be invisible, a ghost. It’s ok if you’re 18 or 21 and are still inexperienced. But SES has been a regular in Serie A since 2011, entered Europe with three different teams and also played football abroad. Plus, he has 23 caps for Italy. In short: he’s no rookie anymore.

At the age of 25 Stephan must still enter his prime, but he isn’t exactly young anymore. We can’t keep blaming age for his inconsistency. And thus, his Roman career is at risk. Ünder is making a name for himself and we have a second prodigy in Patrik Schick. Perotti is the type of guy every coach loves and who knows who Monchi will buy this Summer. Kluivert, Ziyech, Brahimi and Politano are just a couple of names being thrown around and they can all play on SES’s position.

Yes, he was Roma’s second top scorer this season after Dzeko but that’s not saying much this season. SES scored 9 goals in the space of ten months. In general the Giallorossi were not that lethal in front of goal and often paralyzed. Roma only scored a mere 61 goals in 38 games. A lot worse than Juve, Lazio or Napoli. On this team only Dzeko reached double digits, the rest is far behind him in the standings.

So this post all leads to this: Will El Shaarawy stay at Roma? Or could Roma be tempted to sell him? Or a third option: SES chooses to leave Rome. Napoli seems interested, while his first love, Genoa, will also be very keen on bringing him back. Or you know, there will always be a Chinese or American club waiting on the horizon.

If a good offer comes in, the management will definitely consider it. Like I said earlier, he’s not expendable, unlike a Manolas, Alisson, Kolarov or Radja, vital pieces who are more difficult to replace. We still got Ünder, Perotti, Schick waiting for his breakthrough and from what I’ve seen, Kluivert Jr has got some skills as well. Dzeko is going nowhere for the moment, Politano could return or Florenzi could reclaim his place on the wings. Enough options.

Anyway, Roma’s attack will undergo a revamp and SES is one of the question marks. We need fresh faces in all departments and some players will/must be sacrificed. Losing SES is less painful than losing Alisson or Manolas. That’s the realist in me speaking.

But the romantic JonAS (and listen up ladies, he’s very romantic and passionate!) hopes SES will stay on board. He’s a great kid and I see him as a part of the future Italian core of this Rome (together with Florenzi and Pellegrini). Besides, Roma’s had an abundance of inconsistent players before. It’s in our DNA so why would SES be any different? Why should he be the one to go and not say Gerson, Peres, Jesus or Defrel?

SES is like marriage. You have to stay loyal, in good AND bad times. For better or worse. Roma has a jewel of the Nile in El Shaarawy and the best is (hopefully) yet tot come. If he can somehow retrieve his cold-blooded and fearless form of 2012, the sky is the limit and it will be impossible for EDF to bench him.

It’s now or never for Stephan. Next season the Pharaoh must finally rise from the ashes, leave his sarcophagus and guide his Roman legions to glory. If not, then well, be ready for the Eleventh Plague I guess...