x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bruno Metsu looks to further strengthen Al Wasl squad

Coach considering changes to his foreign line-up ahead of the new season.

Mahmoud Abdel Razek Shikabala, left, in action for Al Wasl.
Mahmoud Abdel Razek Shikabala, left, in action for Al Wasl.

DUBAI // Bruno Metsu wants to add two more foreign players to his Al Wasl squad before the team departs for Germany on Wednesday for the final phase of their preseason training.

The Frenchman, who last month replaced Diego Maradona at the Zabeel Stadium, has had to move quickly in the transfer market as he attempts to refine his playing staff before Wasl open their Pro League campaign in five weeks' time against Al Wahda.

Metsu has already secured the services of Mahmoud Abdel Razek Shikabala, the Egyptian midfielder signed earlier this month on a US$1.25 million (Dh4.59m) loan deal from Zamalek, and Faisal Khalil, the former UAE national team striker whose loan move was finalised this week after he had fallen out of favour at Al Ahli.

Shikabala's arrival has taken Wasl's foreign contingent to the allocated four, so to bring in fresh faces Metsu will look to move on the Chilean attacker Edson Puch and the Omani defender Mohamed Al Shaibah. Both players have returned to the club having spent last season out on loan.

Mariano Donda, the influential Argentine playmaker, forms an integral part of the new coach's plans and in June signed a two-year contract following a successful first season in the Emirates.

The need for new recruits has been accentuated by Wasl's failure to win either of their two home friendlies during the past week; Wednesday night's 2-2 draw with the Omani side Al Shabab followed last week's 4-3 defeat to Kitchee SC of Hong Kong.

Metsu, though, says he was impressed with the contribution of Shikabala on his debut against Shabab - the skilful winger, 26, created both his side's goals and was a menace throughout - yet underlined the need to further augment the squad with players of similar stature.

"The performance was better but I'm still not satisfied," Metsu said after the match. "We need to increase our level again although I'm very happy that Shikabala played so well. He helped us score good goals and you can see when he gets the ball the opposition defence are scared.

"He changes our play because when he takes the ball immediately something special happens. He plays to a high level, but we now need two players of the same standard - two foreigners."

Metsu would not disclose names of potential signings, but revealed the club is in negotiations with a number of players he has recommended.

The 58 year old added that a striker and a defender remain the priority, especially the latter following a shaky display from his back four on Wednesday.

"Our defence is not strong enough and we need to add more quality there," he said.

"But that is normal: last season [in the league] Al Wasl conceded 40 goals. However, it is not just a problem with the defence, it is the whole team.

"The attack must help the team defend better. We need to play more compact, more defensive. Our main problem is trying to find a good balance between attack and defence."

Wasl will conclude a truncated pre-season with the 16-day training camp in Germany. The club have yet to determine their fixture schedule for the trip, but Metsu insists he is looking forward to implementing an intensive programme designed to enable the side to better understand his footballing philosophy.

"We need more time," the former UAE national team coach said. "It'll be interesting to see where we are after the camp.

"The good thing is we'll have time to train morning and afternoon, as at the moment it is difficult with Ramadan to work normally, and also the weather is too hot and humid.

"But I think the camp will provide us with the opportunity to see how the squad is working. I hope to have all the team at the camp, including the two new players, if it is possible to find them. After that I can really start the job."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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