The past month has been a turbulent time for Al Wasl, with a change of manager because of Bruno Metsu's illness. On the pitch, they have not won in three games and a major factor has been the absence of the injured Mariano Donda.
In the four league games with the Argentine midfielder, Wasl scored 10 goals, won two and drew two. In the subsequent three matches without him – one draw, two defeats with just one goal scored.
Donda makes Wasl tick, his range of passing is spectacular, he is a consistent goal threat, he delivers dangerous free kicks. Most importantly, he never stops running. You get the impression that Wasl could play back-to-back games and he would still be charging around the pitch.
The Dubai club were considered title outsiders at the start of the season, but without Donda they would probably finish nearer the bottom than the top.
Other top clubs can absorb the absence of one foreign player: consider Jazira's victory on Monday night over Al Shabab without both Ricardo Oliveira and Shin Hyung-min.
Not, it seems, Al Wasl.
Shikabala, the Egyptian wideman, provides flair, but at times he is peripheral to the action. Emiliano Alfaro is lethal in the box, but offers little otherwise.
And Lucas Neill has his hands full defending. Donda's position and work-rate make him Al Wasl's most important player. They need him.
It is not all gloom for the Dubai club. Their next four games are very winnable – they host struggling Shabab on Saturday before whipping boys Kalba, then Dubai and Al Shaab.
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