x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Luis Milla and Al Jazira not a good fit at present in the Pro League

Appointing the Spaniard was always a risk. He had never worked with a club team, except as an assistant at Getafe, and has no experience of football outside Spain.

Luis Milla has tasted victory just once in 11 game ssince taking over as Al Jazira coach. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Luis Milla has tasted victory just once in 11 game ssince taking over as Al Jazira coach. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Remember Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes?

The tale of a king and his fascination for clothes, and his magnificent new robe, woven from the "finest silk and purest gold", that was "invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid".

A fascinating tale, but why talk about it on a football page? Because echoes of it can be found at Al Jazira and their decision to bring in a new coach when there were no obvious imperatives.

People are still wondering why Jazira decided to show Paulo Bonamigo the exit door just minutes after he had led the team to a commanding 4-1 win over Al Dhafra on February 21, and bring in Luis Milla, the former Spain Under 21 and U23 coach.

True, Bonamigo did not make a great start to his reign at Jazira, losing the Super Cup to Al Ain and then crashing to a 2-1 defeat at home against Al Nasr in the Pro League opener. But when the Brazilian was dismissed, his team were second in the league standings, six points behind leaders and champions elect Al Ain.

In the four months preceding his exit, Bonamigo had lost only one of his 19 matches, a 2-1 defeat to Al Wahda in the President's Cup quarter-final.

They had the league's joint-best defence, having conceded only 17 goals in 16 matches. Leaders Al Ain had conceded the same number.

Bonamigo's bosses, however, were not impressed with those statistics.

"In general, we were not happy with the way we were playing," Ayed Mabkhout, the team manager, said after the coach's dismissal.

"We lost the Super Cup, we lost in the President's Cup, so we thought that with the quality of players we have, we should be in a better situation in the President's Cup and also in the league."

Wonder what Mabkhout's thoughts are on the matter now, almost two months on? They have reached the final of the Etisalat Cup, defeating Al Wahda 2-1 in the semi-finals, but that is the only game Milla has won in 11 matches as Jazira coach.

With only two points from five games, Jazira have slipped to fifth in the Pro League points table, 19 behind Al Ain.

They have conceded 15 goals in these games. Even bottom-club Kalba have conceded fewer in this period (12 goals).

Appointing Milla was always a risk. The Spaniard had never worked with a club team, except as an assistant to Michael Laudrup for a season at Getafe, and has no experience of football outside Spain.

Having worked with age-group teams for virtually all of his coaching career, the former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder is putting his trust in the youngsters and has started recent games with Ibrahim Diaky and Subait Khater on the bench.

Milla has been juggling his squad and that is not helping his cause.

He has talked about his players not always playing as a team, but that could easily be a consequence of these frequent changes.

The Spaniard has also spoken about his efforts to bring a new "spirit" to the team, but there were no obvious problems with the spirit of the team when he arrived.

The performance of the team has left Jazira fans disappointed and they have been chanting Bonamigo's name at matches. The 5-1 defeat at Al Shabab will undermine Milla's standing further.

That game, to borrow from Andersen's tale, could be the moment when the child shouted: "But he [the emperor] doesn't have anything on!"

But the bigger problem is Jazira cannot afford to make a change at this stage of the season. So, to quote from Andersen, the procession must go on.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

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