x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Coach Cosmin Olaroiu is the real architect for Al Ain

Cosmin Olaroiu, Al Ain's Romanian manager, has revolutionised the club just one season after they flirted with relegation.

Cosmin Olaroiu, Al Ain's Romanian manager, has revolutionised the club just one season after they flirted with relegation.

He has instilled a winning mentality and an attacking style that strives for victory and not just a draw.

He has integrated the four pillars of performance - physical, mental, technical and tactical - perfectly into the game.

Olaroiu has brought in Yasser Al Qahtani, the prolific Saudi Arabian national team captain; Ignacio Scocco, the Argentine midfielder; and the Ghana international Asamoah Gyan.

He also added the veteran Emirati Helal Saeed, who returned to Al Za'eem (the great) club, as the fans call it, after several seasons with Al Jazira, to use his experience and tactical awareness in midfield.

The 4-3-3 formation relies on a striker who plays in the centre of the front three, a position given to Gyan. The Ghanaian has shown his ability with 10 goals in nine league matches.

During his absence at the African Cup of Nations, the role has been given to Al Qahtani, who had been out of action for two months because of injury.

The offensive midfielders/wingers on either side of the striker are instructed to use their pace to get at full-backs and cross the ball in for the central striker and advancing midfielders. The Emirati Ali Al Wehaibi is a natural winger who you often see cut inside and run at the central defenders or hit the byline and send in a cross.

Scocco is the creative engine of Al Ain, a very efficient player who is given a free role, sometimes dropping deep to collect possession and sometimes behind the striker to make that final pass, and he is perfect in his finishing.

Two players flank the defensive midfielder whose duty is both to defend and attack. These "box-to-box" midfielders should be getting into the opposition's penalty area regularly with the aim of finishing off the chances created by the wide attacking players.

For these roles to be carried out well, such players need to have both creative and passing abilities, like Saeed, who spreads the ball around very smoothly. He is very calm and composed with the ball and always makes himself available to take possession.

He is the midfield architect of Al Ain and arguably the best player in the Pro League.

Al Ain have been the most consistent team in the league this season, losing only once, against the second-placed Al Nasr. They have scored an average of 2.1 goals per league match, the fruits of their organisation and attacking tactics.

Nasr and Jazira are the other Pro League sides whose organisation stands out.

Walter Zenga, Nasr's Italian coach, brought in Luca Toni from Juventus to give the team that extra firepower to push for the title along with Al Ain and Jazira. Zenga has brought a fighting spirit to the squad; they play attractive attacking football and have not lost in their last 10 league outings.

Diego Maradona's Al Wasl side have been interesting. They have a bit of an English style of play: very physical, with lots of long balls. However, they lack creativity in the final third.

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The return of Gyan from the African Cup of Nations and with Al Qahtani finding his way back from injury - he scored the only goal in the 1-0 victory over Al Wahda last week - will create potentially the most lethal strike force in the league, and we can expect Olaroiu to switch to a 4-4-2 formation to fit in both the strikers.

The league season still has far to go, but after 13 rounds it appears that Al Ain have made their best managerial appointment since they last won the league title, in 2003/04.

Omar Al Raisi is an Emirati football writer and analyst who lives in Abu Dhabi.