x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Great sack race is back in full swing

Who is next? This is the question regarding the fate of some coaches, despite the Pro League season being only four games old.

Toninho Cerezo led Al Shabab to their first league title for 23 years in 2007/08 but finds himself out of a job 18 months later.
Toninho Cerezo led Al Shabab to their first league title for 23 years in 2007/08 but finds himself out of a job 18 months later.

Who is next? This is the question regarding the fate of some coaches, despite the Pro League season being only four games old. Already two managers have gone, with Toninho Cerezo and Ze Mario being shown the door at Al Shabab and Ajman respectively. Last season it took five matches to reach this total. The final tally of managerial departures in the first season of professional football was 12, and it is not unrealistic to think that figure could be eclipsed.

More changes are surely on their way and the next one could come at the defending champions. Ioan Andone looks to be on thin ice after Al Ahli took just three points from four games and the chances of him leading the Dubai side at December's Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi appear slim. Frank Pagelsdorf has been given the dreaded vote of confidence by his bosses at Al Nasr. The club have just three points and are ninth in the table.

Patience is in short supply and Alexandre Guimaraes also runs the risk of finding that out if his Al Wasl side, eighth on the table with four points, slip any further. The Dubai side's supporters are already expressing their displeasure and they carry a big influence at the club, which had four coaches last season. As uncertainty prevails in Dubai, things are a lot calmer in Abu Dhabi with clubs from the emirate occupying the top four positions.

Al Ain's Winfried Schaefer, the longest-serving coach at one club following Cerezo's departure, and Abel Braga at Al Jazira, are both doing well. Manuel Cajuda also looks safe for the moment at Sharjah, who made three coaching changes last season. Of the recent dismissals, Ze Mario's sacking by Ajman was not totally unexpected. He replaced Abdul Wahab Abdul Qadir at the club in April and had been under pressure after an unimpressive pre-season.

Ajman, who had lost six of their eight games under Ze Mario last term, were well-beaten in pre-season friendly games by Wasl and Sharjah among others. Players at the club were publicly expressing their displeasure and the Brazilian was hot favourite to be the first casualty of the season. After four consecutive defeats, the expected axe fell. Cerezo's dismissal, however, was a surprise. After guiding Al Shabab to their first league title in 23 years in 2008 in his debut season, the former Roma and Sampdoria midfielder struggled in the man-management department last year.

He was accused of bias towards his new Brazilian recruits Marcos Assuncao and Carlos Renato, and the latter is probably the biggest reason for his departure. The former Flamengo playma-ker was a disliked figure among the Shabab fans for his mediocre performances last season. His attitude in the pre-season earned him a four-day suspension from training and there were no signs of improvement when the season began.

Cerezo, however, stayed loyal to Renato and that could have proved to be his undoing. The club management, who had hoped to keep him as their coach until 2012 at least, decided to let him go. Has the Pro League seen the last of Cerezo then? Probably not. If he hangs around in the country for a few more days, he is sure to fill a vacancy somewhere. The game of managerial musical chairs never ceases.

@Email:arivzi@thenational.ae