x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

New-look Nasr aim for the stars

After winning their third league title and the double in 1986, the mid-table side hope to end long wait for title with 12 new signings.

The management feels coach Frank Pagelsdorf has fixed a leaky defence, but would still like to add another defender to the squad.
The management feels coach Frank Pagelsdorf has fixed a leaky defence, but would still like to add another defender to the squad.

DUBAI // Al Nasr fans have had a frustratingly long wait for a reason to celebrate. After winning their third league title and the double in 1986, the club faithful have just had the 1989 President's Cup triumph to savour. The buzz, however, is back at the Al Maktoum Stadium. The "aggressive" new board at the club, headed by Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum, have been ringing in the changes to end the 23-year wait for a league title.

There have been 12 new signings by Nasr this pre-season, with coach Frank Pagelsdorf being presented a proven foreign quartet of the Ecuadorian international striker Carlos Tenorio, playmaker Anouar Diba and Ali Boussaboun (both Moroccan-Dutch) and the Iranian midfielder Iman Mobali to challenge the likes of Al Ahli, Al Jazira and Al Ain next season. Locally, the club have recruited Al Shabab goalkeeper Ismael Rabea and the impressive Al Khaleej striker Mohammed Malallah as well as a number of promising young players.

The club board have been busy in rebuilding the squad and pushing the envelope. Now they hope their efforts will bear fruit in the coming season. "With the squad we have, I believe we should have a good chance next season," said team manager Humaid al Tayer. "But it all depends on the players and what they will give us in the matches. I hope they will fight and give their best on the field to help us achieve our goals. I believe in the players that is why we have brought them here. We trust them and I hope they can repay us. To win the league title will be a great achievement.

"This challenge, of course, puts a lot of pressure on us, but we are working hard, on a daily basis, to achieve our goals. "In football, you don't know what will happen. Players can get injured at times, sometimes they might have family problems. So you have to work with them on a daily basis and look after them." Nasr finished sixth last season, improving from ninth in the previous year. They have spent most of the decade in the mid-table, with their best finish being fourth, in 2003 and 2005.

Last season, their inability to win at home scuppered their chances of a better finish. They could win just one of their 11 games at the Al Maktoum stadium and lost four. Wholly unpredictable, they defeated Al Ain on the road, but lost at home to the likes of the relegated Al Shaab and the back-markers Al Sharjah. Nasr also suffered from a leaky defence. At the midway stage, they had scored 20, but conceded 23.

Pagelsdorf, who took over as coach from Luka Bonacic in January, managed to arrest the slide a little, but Nasr still finished with a deficit, scoring 37 goals and conceding 40. "Last year, the defence was a problem only in the first-half of the season," said al Tayer. "After Frank took over as coach, he fixed the defence and it was not a major problem. "Still, I believe we need to improve and work harder. So we are looking for one defender and then we will close shop.

"The most difficult thing for us will be that we have 12 new players. It will take some time for them to come together as a team. But I hope the coach can fix that issue and do well." arizvi@thenational.ae