Rounds 1-13 of the 2020/21 Arabian Gulf League have flown by in a flash.
The first stage has been lit up by a series of superb performers, revelling after more than 200 days of inaction because of coronavirus.
GK: Fahad Al Dhanhani (Bani Yas)
2021 could be a huge one for Al Dhanhani. His six clean sheets from 13 run-outs is the most in the division, a record which is pushing Bani Yas towards shock AFC Champions League-qualification from third. There is also the prospect of adding to his one UAE cap after he was named by the returning Bert van Marwijk in the squad earlier this month to face Iraq. A clean sheet and six saves in Sharjah’s single loss this term can only help his cause.
RB: Fahad Sebil (Ittihad Kalba)
There is little extravagant about the combative 31-year-old. Yet he has held down the right flank for an Ittihad Kalba who went eight games undefeated and sit a solid eighth. Averages per 90 minutes of 1.2 for tackles and 7.5 interceptions speak volumes.
CB: Lucas Pimenta (Al Wahda)
A defender of significant promise is emerging in the capital. Pimenta’s sizeable frame and rare speed is complimented by raw defensive ability, which is getting refined by the match. The 20-year-old Brazilian’s 36 interceptions is a, colossal, seven more than any other player. Seventh-placed Wahda continue to celebrate November’s contract extension up to June 2024.
CB: Milos Kosanovic (Al Jazira)
The Serbia centre-back spoke in pre-season about his admiration for compatriot Sinisa Mihajlovic, arguably football’s greatest free-kick merchant. A sensational tribute act has followed, with Al Wasl, Hatta and Ittihad Kalba – who also suffered in the Arabian Gulf Cup – on the receiving end. This is without extolling the virtues of an unflappable 30-year-old who knits everything together for the competition’s youngest squad. A contract extension until summer 2023 is freshly inked and wisely awarded.
LB: Salem Abdullah (Al Ain)
In a pained campaign for fifth-placed Al Ain, uncapped Abdullah signifies a beacon of hope. A slot at left-back has been nailed down by the tall 22-year-old, whose missed just one game. This season has also featured a first AGL goal and his three assists is only bettered by two Emiratis. How much longer will he stay off the UAE radar?
DM: Otabek Shukurov (Sharjah)
There are few better proponents of the Uzbekistan international’s position in Asia, let alone the AGL. A stellar reputation has been enhanced at the base of the leader’s midfield, alongside the emergent Majed Surour. This partnership has contributed to the AGL’s second-meanest defence, with only 11 let in. A long-distance, albeit-deflected, winner last time out versus Kalba added further value.
— Arabian ↔️ Gulf ↔️ League (@AGLeague_EN) January 18, 2021
CM: Abdullah Ramadan (Al Jazira)
A Middle Eastern superstar is ascendant at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Ramadan has won back-to-back Player of the Month gongs this term, plus leads the way in the AGL for touches (1,290) and successful passes (930). The 22-year-old’s combined tally of four goals and assists is, also, already only one behind 2018/19’s leading mark of five. With a game intelligence that belies his youth, he can only get better from here. Just ask Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, after orchestrating November’s 5-3 rout.
RW: Suhail Al Noobi (Bani Yas)
Al Noobi is on a mission to smash his personal records and drive Bani Yas to surprise glory. The 25-year-old is the joint-third-highest-scoring Emirati (five goals) and has the joint-most assists (five) in the entire league. This is already a marked improvement on 2019/20’s combined tally of seven, from 15 run-outs. The improved Al Noobi’s polished instincts were on display with an opportunistic brace in last month’s staggering 4-0 thrashing of Al Ain. A chance to add to a solitary UAE cap, surely, should follow.
AM: Khalfan Mubarak (Al Jazira)
Jazira’s aspirations to finish in the upper echelons of the AGL might not have survived yet another debilitating knee injury for 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman, just two matches into 2020/21. Yet, his chosen successor for club and country – Mubarak – has carried the creative mantle with aplomb. The 25-year-old has produced three goals and four assists, a mesmerising dribble for Zayed Al Ameri’s opener at Fujairah one of this season’s highlights.
LW: Igor Coronado (Sharjah)
Coronado is a playmaker who, rarely, fails to deliver at clutch moments. His tally of nine goals is the AGL’s fourth best, plus is directly worth seven points to Sharjah’s cause. This nerveless ability was vital when he sunk a penalty in November’s affirming 1-0 victory at Jazira. Coronado, though, isn’t just about cold numbers – despite registering the joint-most successful dribbles (42) and second-most key passes (30) from the 11th-most touches (863). December’s spellbinding flip flap and inventive drag back at Hatta from the Brazilian deserved far more than a blocked shot.
— Arabian ↔️ Gulf ↔️ League (@AGLeague_EN) January 14, 2021
CF: Welliton (Sharjah)
September’s misfortune from seriously injured summer addition Jonatan sparked the fortunate reunification between Sharjah and their leading scorer from 2018/19’s title charge. The unexpected decision to bring the Brazilian back from Al Wasl has been rewarded with a league-high 11 strikes. Last season’s failed experiment with Cape Verde hit man Ricardo Gomes was corrected, at a stroke.
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