Shabab Al Ahli have dismissed manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena despite the club currently leading the Arabian Gulf League.
The Argentine, who previously managed Al Wasl, was relieved of his duties late on Saturday night, with the 2-2 draw at home to Al Nasr on Friday his final match in charge.
Shabab Al Ahli have a solitary victory in their past seven games in all competitions. Gerard Zaragoza, the club’s Under-21 manager, will take the first-team reins until the end of the season.
The seven-time UAE champions – all secured under the "Al Ahli" banner – remain on course for their first top-flight title since the 2017, three-club merger with Al Shabab and Dubai club. With eight rounds left, Shabab Al Ahli hold a three-point lead from Al Ain at the top of the standings.
Even though speculation regarding Arruabarrena’s future had increased given recent results, his departure still came as a shock. Appointed in October 2018 on the back of a hugely promising two years at Wasl, the former Boca Juniors and Villarreal full-back guided Shabab Al Ahli last season to the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup double, while also finishing runner-up to Sharjah in the league.
In January, Shabab Al Ahli were denied back-to-back Arabian Gulf Cup successes, when they were defeated 2-1 in the final by Al Nasr. It represented the third major UAE final Arruabarrena had lost after the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf Cup and the 2018 President’s Cup with Wasl.
Arruabarrena, 44, left Wasl in May 2018 and spent four months at Qatar’s Al Rayyan before succeeding Chilean Jose Luis Sierra at the Rashid Stadium.
At present, Shabab Al Ahli boast the best defence in the league, although they crashed out of the President’s Cup last month at the quarter-final stage and are without a win in their opening two group games in the Asian Champions League.
They travel to take on 10th-placed Ajman in the league on Friday as part of the latest round of fixtures to be played behind closed doors, following a decision made last week by the UAE Football Association to limit the impact of the coronavirus.
It could prove a decisive week in the AGL, with third-placed Al Jazira hosting second-placed Al Ain at the at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday.