El Mizouni is back at Ipswich Town... but what does his short and long-term future look like at Portman Road?
- Credit: Steve Waller
Idris El Mizouni is back at Ipswich Town after his loan spell at Cambridge was cut short – but where does he fit in at Portman Road?
On paper a return to a club where he did so well before a knee injury ended his loan during 2019/20 was a perfect one for the one-cap Tunisian international, but things were different this time.
He made 15 appearance but only three were league starts, with most coming from the bench into wide-left roles in a 4-4-2 which, in truth, didn’t really suit him. That system meant the No.10 role, one he favours, didn’t really exist and, on the odd occasions when it did, he found experienced former Norwich man Wes Hoolahan blocking his path.
Cambridge’s rapid start to the season didn’t help either, with manager Mark Bonner reluctant to change a winning side once El Mizouni arrived a few weeks into the campaign.
It feels like a return to Ipswich will suit all parties, with Town short of midfielders, both the club and El Mizouni wanting him to play more games and Cambridge understood to be looking to add pace to their side during January and needing financial room to manoeuvre.
But where does he fit in, now he’s back in Suffolk?
El Mizouni will have seen Armando Dobra and Brett McGavin’s involvement with the first team in recent games and perhaps looked on in envy, with Ipswich’s continued midfield injury problems meaning he could well have played a good number of games had he remained at the club.
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There’s every chance he will make the bench when Swindon Town visit Portman Road this weekend, at a time when Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes, Jon Nolan and Teddy Bishop could all still be sidelined through injury.
He’s raw and is a long way from the finished article but has shown previously that he can handle first-team football, especially if not leaned on too heavily and given the opportunity to express himself.
"He takes the balls in positions where others might not," Lambert previously said of the youngster. "That's what I like about him. He's got a lot to learn but he's one we feel has a bright future in the game as long as he keeps progressing.
"He needs games as well, without a doubt. A really good talent, without a doubt. He just needs to play football games."
He brings elements of Bishop and Andre Dozzell’s game to the table, having drive through the middle of the pitch and a good, clever, range of passing to partner a fast football brain. He’s capable of playing centrally, both as a No.10 and deeper in midfield, while also previously playing wide positions for Ipswich.
That versatility will prove vital, especially in the short term while Town wait for Downes, Skuse and Bishop to return to action.
Ipswich are known to want to add creativity to their side during the January transfer window are understood to be close to doing so, though El Mizouni’s return will help in that regard, too.
If Town are successful in their recruitment drive, though, that may just mean the youngster is a player Paul Lambert and Lee O’Neill may look to get out on a more suitable loan towards the end of the window.
However, if he features for the first-team in January he won't be eligible for a further loan move due to the fact you are not permitted to represent three clubs in a single season.
El Mizouni's return and potential recruitment in wing positions may also make a loan departure for Armando Dobra more likely, with El Mizouni perhaps more rounded and first-team ready than the exciting young Albanian.
El Mizouni is a young player those in charge at the club are known to rate highly and, while it remains unclear just how big a role he will play between now and May (or whenever the season actually finishes) what is clear is that he’s likely to have an even bigger role to play next season, given the near-certainty of senior departures for some of the club’s out-of-contract central midfielders.
His contract is due to expire at the end of the season but it’s almost certain the midfielder will be a player the Blues are looking to extend in the coming weeks.