The hard work has begun for coach Alberto Zaccheroni and his 28-man UAE squad.
With less than three months to go until they host the 2019 Asian Cup, the Whites took to Barcelona’s Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys for the first time on Sunday. This third training camp in three months will also feature Thursday’s friendly with Honduras, prior to the following Monday’s concluding clash with Venezuela.
Here are the major issues Zaccheroni has to tackle.
After August’s goalless draw with minnows Andorra was followed by last month’s 2-0 loss to an undercooked Trinidad and Tobago, something had to change.
Zaccheroni’s trademark 3-4-3 formation, that had carried AC Milan to the 1998/99 Serie A trophy, was jarring with the current UAE set-up. The Italian listened to his squad, switched to the Middle East’s ubiquitous 4-2-3-1 and a 3-0 win followed on September 11 against Laos – a pressure-relieving first triumph since January.
Which way will he go this time?
CAN AMOORY AND KHALFAN COEXIST?
Omar Abdulrahman’s defection to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal threatened to cast a shadow over the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League.
Instead, Khalfan Mubarak’s electric form for Al Jazira – two goals and a leading seven assists in five games – has dispelled this notion.
Goals have been the Achilles heel of Zaccheroni’s tenure. Only four had been scored in the 12 preceding matches, before the Laos rout.
This will be a problem for the past if Zaccheroni can come up with the tactical solution, this month, to place both playmakers in his XI.
CENTRE OF THE DEBATE
Zaccheroni’s revolving-door policy in midfield has to end soon.
Khamis Esmail and Majed Hassan started against Trinidad, with Ali Salmeen and Amer Abdulrahman then chosen for Laos. For the Andorra horror show, it was Abdulrahman, Salmeen and Hassan.
Abdulrahman’s superior passing ability and strong start this term, surely, makes him a lock.
A big call must be made about his partner. Hassan’s energy makes him the obvious contender.
The only worry for Zaccheroni will be the pair’s propensity for injury, with the Asian Cup approaching.
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