Our columnist takes a look at how the return of Stephan El Shaarawy to Roma might play out on the pitch in the coming months...
Recognising the need to reinforce the squad ahead of a crucial and extremely busy second half of the season, bringing Stephan El Shaarawy back to Roma seems a sensible bit of business.
Possessing a fantastic knowledge of the league and aware of what it takes to thrive at Roma from his first spell at the club, the experienced Italian should be able to hit the ground running - qualities that are notoriously hard to find in January.
Desperately keen to rekindle his form for the Giallorossi prior to him leaving to China for Shanghai Shenhua, where his 11 goals from 23 starts saw him finish the 2018-19 season as Roma's top scorer, El Shaarawy will be a handy addition indeed.
That season in particular was a real highlight for the dynamo: after struggling on occasion with injuries and consistency, he truly cemented his place in the team. Courtesy of his excellent showings, he was right up there as one of the best attackers in Serie A, with his improved finishing, mazy dribbling and lethal runs wreaking havoc for defenders all over.
Working so cohesively with his teammates under Claudio Ranieri's tutelage in that period, he dovetailed brilliantly with the likes of Edin Dzeko, Nicolo Zaniolo, Javier Pastore, Diego Perotti, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Aleksandar Kolarov at fullback, with his understanding and positional interchanges key to his and the team's positive run home.
Capable of playing anywhere across the frontline, it'll be intriguing how Paulo Fonseca deploys the versatile 28-year-old. Typically used to operating wide and then cutting in, Fonseca's 3-4-2-1/3-2-4-1 will mean that he will most likely become another option for one of the dual 10 roles that the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pedro, Pellegrini or Carles Perez feature in.
Runouts as the main striker - where he would bring some interesting different attributes to the role - would also seem a distinct possibility.
El Shaarawy could even be deployed at wingback, where he'd relish surging into vacant spaces to use his pace and dribbling to motor into the final third. But realistically this probably won't be the case given Roma's quality in this area.
The fact he worked under Luciano Spalletti, Eusebio Di Francesco and Ranieri while at Roma will have armed with the knowledge he needs to adapt to Fonseca's tactically flexible framework.
Seeing as Fonseca demands plenty of defensive effort from his troops, El Shaarawy should have no worries adhering to his demands, as he improved immensely in this regard during his last couple of campaigns in Rome.
Whether pressing high, counterpressing immediately after the ball is lost or tracking back, he demonstrated how effectively he can contribute in these compartments.
“His offensive qualities were never in question, but now he’s added a new dimension by contributing defensively,” Di Francesco noted of El Shaarawy during his tenure as Roma boss.
“He’s doing what he’s been asked to. He’s not remaining isolated for long periods. He’s getting involved in the play more.”
By the numbers from the 2018-19 crusade, his 3.72 touches inside the area per 90, 2.82 successful dribbles p90, 2.75 progressive runs p90, 2.63 shots p90, 1.28 fouls suffered p90 and 1.09 shot assists p90 demonstrated his multifaceted threat.
Now back at the club he loves and in familiar confines, he'll be hoping he can replicate his outstanding form from 18 months ago.
While this seems like a tall order considering his lack of recent playing time, El Shaarawy should be rested both mentally and physically - meaning after the ramping up period required to get him to full fitness he should be able to regular help the team.
Although a lot has changed since he left, having a player of his experience and quality will give Roma a real spark, with his presence set to be a major boost ahead of what will be a frenetic second half of the season.