Al Wasl caretaker coach Saleem Abdulrahman has told his beleaguered squad they must redouble their efforts if they are to improve their wretched recent form.
Abdulrahman is yet to taste victory since taking over from Hector Cuper at the Zabeel Stadium until the end of the season earlier this month.
The Cheetahs are winless in their last six games in all competitions, while they have won just once since December 15.
Their latest loss, 3-1 at the hands of Al Wahda, showed a team low on confidence and belief as they rarely looked like bringing an end to their poor run.
Following the game, Saeed Al Kathiri, signed from Wahda in January, suggested his new club lacked spirit in the dressing room.
“It’s a psychological problem,” Abdulrahman said. “We need to work hard, we need to improve ourselves, we need to recover from our mistakes. We need to work hard because I don’t have a magic wand, but what I can say is we will do exactly that to improve.”
Wasl’s slide down the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) table has come at a time when they have struggled to find the back of the net.
The Cheetahs have scored just five goals in their last 10 league outings, with Ricardo Oliveira’s injury-time penalty against Wahda on Friday night his first since his January move from Al Jazira.
His strike partner Al Kathiri is yet to find the target in six AGL appearances for the club, although he did hit two in a 3-2 UAE League Cup defeat to Al Nasr.
Against Wahda, the Cheetahs’ fragile confidence in front of goal was all too apparent as promising moves constantly broke down in or around the area.
Abdulrahman added: “We reached the goal many times but we had bad luck with this. What can we do? We attacked many times but were not able to score.”
For all their recent troubles Wasl are still eight points clear of the relegation zone, in 11th, largely due to their early form under Cuper.
If they are to ensure the current malaise does not carry over into next season, Abdulrahman is well aware that the hard work needs to be put in now, at all levels of the club.
“We are all responsible, we have to work together as one unit to solve this issue,” he said. “We are all handling these problems, from the players, the management, everyone working at Al Wasl. But as I have said before, what weneed to do is work, work, work.
“We need to improve our own mistakes and we have to improve ourselves and we need to face our problems.”
Next up for Wasl is a home game against Dubai rivals Al Nasr.
Nelson Valdez says he never got the chance to prove his worth at Al Jazira – but is hoping he won’t have to return to the Abu Dhabi club.
The Paraguay striker arrived in the capital last summer with a big reputation and high expectations after starring in Europe with clubs such as Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund, Rubin Kazan and La Liga side Valencia.
But a frustrating six-month spell, where he scored four times in 14 games, ended in January when Olympiakos took him on loan to replace the Fulham-bound Kostas Mitroglou while Jazira boss Walter Zenga moved for Felipe Caicedo.
It has been a roller-coaster two months for Valdez as he helped the Greek side win the league title for a 41st time and then miss out on the Champions League quarter-finals after Manchester United wiped out their 2-0 first-leg lead with a stunning 3-0 success in the return of their last-16 tie.
While disappointed about the defeat to David Moyes’ side, it is passion-filled European nights like that trip to Old Trafford, which are a major factor in Valdez’s desire to persuade Olympiakos to take up the option to buy him permanently once his loan ends at the end of the campaign.
“For sure I want to play in the Champions League again, and have big games like this against Manchester United,” Valdez told Sport360° exclusively. “Unfortunately we lost the game because we had a lot of ambition to go to the last eight – and a big chance.
“We did not achieve this, but hopefully we will come back. I want to play in the big leagues of Europe, and in big games, and I just hope that I don’t have more injuries and I can show what I can do.
“I liked Abu Dhabi and I was happy with my family there. But I was injured for a long time and could not play all the time and that didn’t make me happy.
“I never got the chance to show what I can do. If a player is injured a lot then they are not happy, it is difficult to show their best and to show why the team has bought them.
“I know what I did before and I wanted to do the same with Al Jazira.
“I have a contract there for one more year, but now we have to see what happens at the end of theseason. I am happy at Olympiakos, I want to stay here and we only have to speak to the people in Abu Dhabi.
“Olympiakos are a big team and I am happy here, but it’s not my decision, it’s a decision for Al Jazira because I have a contract there.
“I think the players they have there are good players and they can do well, but I would like to stay in Europe.
“It’s my ambition to play for Paraguay and it’s one of the reasons why I came back to play in Europe.
“If not in Olympiakos, maybe in England. Why not? I am 30, but I just want to play. We will have to wait and see what happens.”
Valdez has scored five times in nine appearances for the Greek champions, including a hat-trick in a 4-1 win at Ergotelis last week.
Gilles Yapi Yapo’s second-half penalty earned Dubai a first-ever win over Al Shabab, with their 1-0 victory putting a severe dent in their city rivals’ title ambitions.
Shabab were already playing catch-up to leaders Al Ahli but they are now nine points behind the Red Knights with just five games remaining.
The only goal of the game at the Dubai Sports & Cultural Club arrived from the spot in the 47th minute after Mohammed Marzooqwas penalised for a trip on Waleed Khalid and Yapi Yapo did the rest from 12 yards.
The visitors were unable to find a way back into the contest and their evening took a turn for the worst as both Esam Dhahi and Abdulla Eissa were shown red cards with just over two minutes left.
“We will continue to play hard and see what the future has instore for us,” Shabab coach Marcos Paqueta said.
Dubai’s victory was the club’s first in 12 attempts in the league – their last coming back on December 4 against Ajman.
It was also the first since Junior dos Santos assumed the coaching role from Umberto Barberis earlier this month and leaves them four points from safety.
“We have some very good players and this team deserves to be among the top four or five in the league, not at the bottom of the points table,” the Brazilian coach said.
“I have told this to the players as well. I told them we have seven matches remaining and we will have to play beyond our abilities in these matches to remain in the top division.
“Now we have five matches remaining and our target is to fight hard and try to win each one of those matches.”
In the day’s other game, Ajman pulled themselves well clear of the danger zone with a 4-2 win at Al Dhafra.
Bakari Kone struck an early goal for the Orange Brigade, and after Makhete Diop and Kamel Chafni had scored for the hosts, Ajman secured victory with goals from Waleed Ahmed, Boris Kabi and Mansour Abbas