The winter transfer window, as they always do, has slammed shut in the Arabian Gulf League.
Monday’s closure ended a cycle which witnessed 103 transactions from clubs in the UAE’s top flight. Supporters – plus boards – now are left to anxiously take stock and predict what impact their beloved side’s business has in the months ahead.
Here are the major talking points:
WAHDA WERE OPEN FOR BUSINESS
The Al Wahda management have, decisively, stood by their man.
A dismal first half of the campaign was blown away by a January market which included seven pick-ups for boss Manolo Jimenez. Most of these have already resembled distinct improvements to what preceded them.
UAE defensive midfielder Khamis Esmail has wound back the clock, while prodigious 19-year-old Brazilian centre-back Lucas Pimenta’ second appearance included a headed winner and clean sheet in the Abu Dhabi derby at Al Jazira.
Standard Liege winger Paul-Jose Mpoku has two assists in three AGL run-outs, ex-Al Ain battler Lee Myung-joo commands respect and former UAE centre-back Fares Juma appears sharper.
Wahda have won all four matches since January 1, propelling themselves up to fifth – just one point behind second.
Their, stark, winter refresh makes them a must-watch proposition in the remaining months.
METHOD BEHIND AL AIN’S, APPARENT, MADNESS
Consternation followed Al Ain’s failure to fill their vacant fourth foreign spot, left open by Brazil-born forward Caio Canedo’s naturalisation.
With a 2020 AFC Champions League campaign about to imminently start, the Boss fans were expecting more than just the adroit addition of Kazakhstan captain Bauyrzhan Islamkhan.
It may be this very competition, though, that ensured they didn’t rush into any hasty deals.
The increasingly impressive Omar Yaisien, France-born of Egyptian origins, qualifies as a resident Under-21 prospect domestically, but is a foreigner in the AFC’s eyes.
The ex-Paris Saint-Germain starlet now has been gifted the final berth in four-man non-Emirati contingent for continental competition. Watch him shine.
KALBA MAKE BOLD DZSUDZSAK CALL
A, fairly, frantic final day was dominated by Ittihad Kalba.
Sharjah’s unwanted Cape Verde striker Ricardo Gomes first came through the door, on loan. Understandable for a side who’d netted only 20 times in 14 matches.
It was not simple to fathom, however, why Hungary winger Balazs Dzsudzsak – still under contract – then made way for unheralded Vitesse Arnhem winger Navarone Foor in the four-player foreign quota.
This has created a scenario in which the AGL’s foremost chance creator – 52 from 14 matches, 14 ahead of anyone else – has been replaced by someone with four assists and no goals in 17 Eredivisie matches this term.
A statement would follow on Tuesday that declared all switches were at the behest of coach Jorge Da Silva and the technical staff. This bold approach will be tested on Thursday in the intriguing relegation scrap against promoted Hatta.
BOYS FROM BRAZIL SIT ON TOP
Football loves Brazilians – this is no secret.
May’s annual report by the CIES Football Observatory evidenced that 1,330 of them played outside their homeland, 463 more than nearest competitor France. This theme is accentuated in the UAE’s top flight.
Of the 21 transfers that involved changes to the four-player foreign quota, half involved Brazil-born footballers.
Some like Benfica loanee – and former Al Ain winger – Caio of Sharjah and Kalba’s K League 1 Team of the Year member Wanderson possess quality that speaks for itself. They are, virtually, guaranteed to be welcome additions.
It is, however, much harder to deduce what convinced bottom-placed Khor Fakkan to land Ramon Lopes and Ricardinho, neither of them being natural No9s or regular scorers. A record of 14 goals in 33 Serie B matches for Sao Bento does not offer any guarantee, either, that Ze Roberto can adequately replace Pedro Conde at Bani Yas.
But so many of their countrymen have arrived on these shores unknown and proceeded to excel. History should repeat itself in 2019/20.
RELEGATION BATTLE FORCES INSTANT REACTION
None of the bottom four can be accused of inaction in their bids to avoid the drop to First Division League.
Only prolific ex-Germany Under-21 striker Peniel Mlapa remained out of Kalba’s non-indigenous quartet and just six-goal Brazilian midfielder Dodo survived the cull at Khor Fakkan.
Hatta have hired Brazilian attackers Neilton and – a previous scorer of 21 goals in 44 matches for them between 2016-18 – Samuel Rosa, while ex-Al Jazira wide man Ernest Asante and Malta-based Gzira United striker Jefferson Assis can be found at Fujairah.
Whomever has possessed the soundest judgement will survive. Those who didn’t buy wisely, face an unwelcome fate…
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