A moment to illustrate Al Hilal’s curious relegation came at the start of the derby loss on Tuesday night.
Petros had precious seconds in possession of the ball 40 yards from goal. Vigilant Pity Martinez crept across the space between vacant left-back Yasser Al Shahrani and center-back Ali Al Bulaihi to take down the Brazilian fighter’s ball before teasing the game’s only hit into the bottom corner while a static defense stepped in to no avail for an offside call that couldn’t offer redemption.
An inevitable feeling is that Hilal, who has been happy with three major trophies since November 2019, has become a team with no purpose. This is an alarming position for those who pride themselves on insatiable accomplishments.
The results are sad. Only three wins from eleven games in the Saudi Professional League have opened a gap of five points for leaders Shabab. In addition, the AFC Champions League winner Razvan Lucescu has cost his job in 2019 and has already thrown a cloud over the replacement – however permanent – Rogerio Micale.
Yet Hilal’s output remains remarkably consistent.
They lost 69 percent of the ball after a 1-0 loss at King Saud University Stadium. The dominance of the ball in 21 of 22 games in 2020/21 was recorded.
Average ownership of the Saudi Professional League according to Wyscoutin the triumphant year 2019/20 it was 62.8 percent. This season it’s 65.1 percent.
Dribbles per 90 minutes last semester were 28.9 and are now 29.8. Attempts per 90 minutes stand at 12.6 and were 12.4 a season earlier.
A rearguard who injured Martinez so easily in the middle of the week conceded 0.8 goals per game this season. It was 0.9 in 2019/20.
The frequency of crossings per 90 minutes has been increased from 16.8 to 20.5. Perhaps a stylistic change that partly helps to explain the sharp drop of 1.7 goals per game versus the rampant 2.5 last season.
There will be other, more important factors. A careful study of the reasons for this productivity shift is paramount to Micale’s prospects.
The Brazilian’s indictment did not go without a bite against Nassr. The Colombian pit bull Gustavo Cuellar stormed into the Moroccan winger Nordin Amrabat, Nasser Al Dawsari left his mark on Petros and Salem Al Dawsari did the same with his Saudi Arabian colleague Sultan Al Ghanam.
However, such intensity was often lacking at the other end of the pitch. Nassr center-back Abdulelah Al Amri showed a courageous duel against Bafetimbi Gomis in the first half.
This intervention was celebrated like a goal by an eighth placed Nassr who appears on the right track under Alen Horvat.
Hilal should be way too much quality to continue this increasingly lousy campaign. However, with two-thirds of the games being played, something must change immediately.
The message from before doesn’t have the same response. Maybe Gomis and Sebastian Giovinco went a season too far.
Argentine winger Luciano Vietto was the only change the foreign septet made before the season. Unwanted Syrian striker Omar Khrbin then left for Al Wahda in the United Arab Emirates that winter without being replaced.
Teams need to evolve over time. Or they will soon stagnate.
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