x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Lacombe must stop troubled Al Wasl's slump to salvage Pro League season

New signings helped Al Wasl's early surge but the club has dropped seven of their last nine league games and sit in eighth place, writes John McAuley.

The next few weeks could define Al Wasl's season. In recent times the Dubai club has suffered from its capricious inclinations, and a volatile beginning to this Pro League campaign just prolonged the pattern.

Undoubtedly, the appointment in the summer of Bruno Metsu represented a sage move following the troublesome tenure of Diego Maradona. The Frenchman boasts considerable experience of football in this region, and the UAE in particular, and quickly set about steadying a creaking ship.

The signings of Emiliano Alfaro, Shikabala and Lucas Neill brought both style and substance, with Neill's arrival designed to tighten a defence that last season had conceded 40 goals.

Neill, at 34, is often referred to as the team's leader - promised to provide a platform for Alfaro, Shikabala and Mariano Donda to spark further forward.

Initially, it worked. Alfaro was prolific, Shikabala effective and Donda commanding. Wasl were unbeaten through their first five league matches.

However, Metsu's illness prompted a regression, and the arrival as his replacement and compatriot of Guy Lacombe failed to jolt Wasl from their malaise.

Two victories from nine league games sees them struggle in eighth position, nowhere near good enough. The continued absence through injury of Donda has clearly affected them and, should the knee require surgery as expected, Wasl will have to act fast in recruiting adequate cover.

Even so, qualification for next season's Asian Champions League – Wasl are 10 points from second-placed Al Jazira – is probably a lost cause already.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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