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OPINION: In defence of Al Ahly manager Juan Carlos Garrido
Juan Carlos Garrido has caused a stir by his recent interview with Mirna El Helbawi, here are KingFut contributor Karim Abdel-Jawad’s thoughts on the Spaniard’s season thus far.
Al Ahly have lost their fourth game of the season against Arab Contractors on Monday night in a somewhat usual fashion this season. Al Ahly had dominated the game but failed to finish off their chances. Meanwhile, Arab Contractors were able to score from one their few chances all game. Al Ahly are currently sitting third in the league and are eleven points behind rivals and league leaders Zamalek; four points off second place. The day Al Ahly supporters feared to come over the past ten years seems to have arrived, but can Al Ahly build a side to dominate for another ten years in the space of a year or two?
Al Ahly’s Spanish manager, Juan Carlos Garrido, is under immense pressure as of late, and his recent interview with Mirna El Helbawi has caused a stir inside the club. On July 8th 2014, Garrido took over as first team manager from interim manager Fathi Mabrouk. Al Ahly had just lifted the league title despite the retirement of many players whom had been crucial to the Red Devils’ golden generation, including the likes of Abou-Treika and Barakat. Al Ahly were beginning a transitional period, in which they hoped to generate a side that can dominate for another ten years.
Before being appointed at the world’s most successful football club, Garrido had been at Real Betis. With only one win in nine and three consecutive defeats, Garrido was sacked leaving the Andalusian side at the bottom of the table. However, Garrido made his name at Villarreal. When he took charge of the Yellow Submarine, he was able to lead them to fourth place in La Liga, thus qualifying for the Champions League, as well as reaching the Europa League’s semi-finals losing to eventual champions FC Porto. At Villarreal, Garrido managed players like Santi Cazorla, Borja Valero, Diego Lopez, Mateo Musacchio and Diego Godin. With his experience he seemed to be the right appointment for Al Ahly during their transition period.
The Spaniard gave an interview to Mirna El Helbawi in which he highlighted seven obstacles that he is facing in his first season at the Cairo giants. Garrido talked about the absence of supporters in the stands, the quality of pitches in Egypt, the team’s airplane flights, the medical team, size of the team’s squad, the players and the media, and his mission as Al Ahly manager. Al Ahly’s supporters accept nothing but three points every game, whether or not the side is playing home or away, and when you’re managing Al Ahly, one must be able to cope with those high standards even if it is during a transitional phase.
Garrido had never managed outside of Europe and some of things that he sees as a problem, many of us in Egypt consider it as normal. People are addressing Garrido and not the problems he is facing. People want someone who would be happy with the problems instead of taking the time to solve the problems facing Garrido and giving him the right atmosphere to succeed in building a side to dominate domestically and continentally.
Despite difficulties, Al Ahly added two titles to their cabinet: the Egyptian Super Cup being the first, defeating rivals Zamalek on penalties. The second title being the CAF Confederation Cup, which has never been won by an Egyptian side previously. Al Ahly added the continental championship thanks to a 95th minute winner from club veteran Emad Meteb. Notably, Al Ahly had only six players on the bench, two of which were goalkeepers, during the second half of the CAF CC campaign because of the large exodus of players in the summer.
Al Ahly have made eight transfers before the arrival of the Spaniard. Alaa Abdel-Sadek was in charge of making those transfers, however, for the first time in years Zamalek were able to lure Al Ahly’s targets with ease, these include Moruf Yusuf and Ayman Hefny. Garrido did not make any of the signings and they were forced upon him. Al Ahly have a squad of 31 players, eight of which are strikers, this does not create a healthy atmosphere for success. There can only be eleven players on the pitch and a maximum of seven players on the bench, including goalkeepers. Understandably, this makes a few players become unhappy. In January, Al Ahly let Mohamed Farouk, who arrived in the summer leave on loan to Wadi Degla and brought in Zamalek’s top scorer Momen Zakaria, who was on loan from ENPPI, and Peter Ebimobowei from Bayelsa United of Nigeria. Thus far, both have produced the goods for the side, scoring a combined eight goals and three assists. Al Ahly’s third winter transfer Hendrik Helmke, the Brazilian-German, is yet to play because of an injury.
Garrido has tried to impose his stamp on Al Ahly, getting them to play his brand of possession-based football. A style of football that has brought success to FC Barcelona under Pep Guardiola and the Spanish national team is being implemented in a way at Al Ahly. Al Ahly have dominated possession home and away and have created chance after chance, many of which have gone to waste because of poor finishing and decision making. An area in which Garrido needs to look to improve is his strikers’ finishing, however, this has improved with the arrival of Zakaria and Ebi.
Tactically, Garrido has been sound, often changing between 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 depending on the scoreline and opposition. His best tactical games have come against the better opposition despite results not always going his way. Al Ahly’s players have become more versatile and more tactically aware than the previous seasons. Many players have improved individually under the Spaniard including Hossam Ashour, Bassem Ali and Abdallah El Said; which is one of the positives achieved under Garrido.
Talk of replacing him with Hossam El-Badry, Tarek El-Ashry or another foreign manager has surfaced recently, however, Al Ahly’s board have ensured that he will remain in his post until the end of the season. Replacing him with one of the three managers is not the solution to the problems Al Ahly are facing because the problems are far more bigger than results. Garrido has raised valid points in his recent interview and bringing in a manager who can deal with these problems in the short run will only pile up these problems in the coming years. The solution is to solve the problems which Garrido has raised and then judge him after solving the problems. Solving the problems are not only in his benefit, but in the benefit of the club as a whole, whether the 46-year-old is in charge or someone else.
Club president, Mahmoud Taher, was present in the stands in Al Ahly’s recent lost and ensured after the game that Garrido would remain in his post. Garrido himself said that he would not quit in the post-match conference, however, he also claimed that challenging for the title is close to impossible. Garrido needs to know who he is managing and that Al Ahly fans do not believe in impossible. In my opinion, what is more important than sacking Garrido is sacking Alaa Abdel-Sadek and Wael Gomaa, whom have failed in their jobs respectively. Creating a football committee to overlook Garrido and hiring adequate people to take Abdel-Sadek’s and Gomaa’s posts is a must. Garrido needs to be surrounded by people who know no impossible.