Five thorny issues faced by Al Ain football club

After two years of success, the 2013/14 season has been one to forget thus far for Al Ain, with their hopes of a third successive league title long gone. John McAuley looks at where and why it has gone wrong for the club.

Quique Sanchez Flores, the Spaniard who previously coached Al Ahli, is understood to be on his way out of Al Ain. Satish Kumar / The National
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Managerial mishandling

Cosmin Olaroiu's decision to move to Al Ahli rocked the club, but it happened in early July. That Al Ain never really recovered owes much to the board's indecision: Jorge Fossati, whose tactics and training soon rankled, was an ill-informed appointment. Dumped on the eve of the new season, it then took another two weeks to install Quique Sanchez Flores, meaning the players began the campaign massively undercooked. A costly period of instability, indeed.

Olaroiu saga

While the players will no doubt argue the club’s long, drawn-out battle with Olaroiu has not affected performances on the pitch, it has proved an unwanted distraction.

Al Ain's season has struggled against the backdrop of a very public spat with their former manager, who last week was handed a suspended three-month prison sentence for reportedly defaming the Garden City club.

Reduced resources

The UAE champions began the season with arguably a better squad than the one that lifted a second successive title, but it has been quickly laid bare.

First, through injuries to key personnel – Alex Brosque, Mirel Radoi and Omar Abdulrahman – and then by offloading star name Michel Bastos.

Deemed good enough for the upper echelons of Italian football, the Brazilian was afforded only 12 league matches by Al Ain.

Leaky defence

Outwardly, the summer acquisition of Khalid Essa, the highly rated UAE goalkeeper, seemed an astute purchase, but the former Al Jazira man has had a season to forget.

The most recent blunder, last Friday, gifted Al Nasr the points.

Sanchez Flores has also had problems at left-back, with no fewer than three different options failing to impress there.

Bastos was an obvious candidate.

Away-day blues

Once as devastating on the road as they were at home, Al Ain no longer hold fear for opponents when they roll into town. They have a solitary victory from nine away league matches this season, losing five.

To underscore the point: they lost four matches altogether last term. Also, last season they won 10 away fixtures from 13, while in 2011/12 they were defeated once in 10 away outings.

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