A week of international football is just around the corner for Herve Renard and Saudi Arabia as both prepare to greet their long-awaited return to competition and point out a path forward.
A 26-man squad was named last week by the multiple African Cup of Nations champion for the meeting in Riyadh, where the friendly against Kuwait on March 25 and the first qualifying game for the 2022 World Cup on March 30 since November 2019 against Palestine be carried out.
The fascinating selection of the French, later affected by Al Hilal striker Abdullah Al Hamdan coronavirus forced withdrawal, contains 10 changes from the November double headed ball against Jamaica. There are also seven capless players, including Al Qadsiyah’s 11-goal winger Hassan Al Amri and Al Nassr’s aspiring center-back Abdulelah Al Amri.
Here are four tactical options the 52-year-old tactician could use this month:
4-2-3-1 – TRUSTED OPTIONS
Renard’s success during a well-traveled career has often revolved around a 4-2-3-1 formation.
There is no reason to believe that this form will be abandoned despite the previous 2-1 loss to Jamaica, in which a 3-4-3 was used.
A key position moving forward now and in the future is the attacking midfielder. Enter Nassrs Al Najei.
The 24-year-old’s impressive 2020/21 Saudi professional league with five goals and four assists, including two in the 7-0 win over Al Batin last week, should make him a lonely international cap.
Al Hamdan’s withdrawal creates a dilemma after nine starts under Renard. Al Hilal’s new teammate Saleh Al Shehri has only scored four goals in 18 top games this season but scored one in the 3-0 win over Jamaica.
Wingers choose each other with Al Ittihad’s Fahad Al Muwallad and Hilal’s Salem Al Dawsari. Also expect a starting spot for the recovering midfield metronome Abdullah Otayf.
Nassrs Abdullah Madu was supposed to stop the in shape club colleague Abdulelah Al Amri’s challenge to start against Palestine.
4-2-3-1 – MIX
Renard faces a dilemma as he clashes in Kuwait on Thursday: either endurance testing untested options in the international arena, or giving his first choice XI priceless time on the field after playing twice in 15 months?
This situation is made more difficult by the Saudi position in Group D. You are second to Uzbekistan, albeit with a game in hand, and only the top position guarantees a place in the third round.
If the first option is pursued, the youngest shiny club form can also be rewarded.
Al Amri was the SPL’s standout center-back, earning minutes despite not previously being on the 2019 Asian Cup squad. Madu was able to make way even though Al Bulaihi only made 11 SPL starts for front runner Hilal this season.
22-year-old Nasser Al Dawsari has emerged as Rogerio Micale’s favorite in Hilal and deserves a try to support the incomparable Ittihad warrior Abdulellah Al Malki in midfield.
An alternative solution to Al Hamdan’s absence is to push Al Muwallad back into the “false 9” role of the Juan Antonio Pizzi era and put Al Ahli Jeddah’s Abdulrahman Ghareeb on the left wing. The latter 23-year-old recorded a career high of five SPL goals from 21 games in 2020/21.
3-4-3 – AN ALTERNATIVE
Different game methods will be essential to the challenges ahead.
Renard’s identification of this problem has recently been evident. A distraction from a four-man defense first appeared in his 13thth international excursion; the second of two friendlies against the Reggae Boyz.
This system seems to work well for Al Shabab’s 22-year-old center-back Hassan Tambakti. Especially injured with colleague Ahmed Sharahili and Renard a proven admirer.
The temptation to throw the Hilal streaker Mohammed Al Breik at the right full-back can be resisted because of the outstanding performance of Nassr’s Sultan Al Ghanam.
The attack on the freedom granted to the potential three fronts of Al Muwalad, Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari should create fear across Asia.
4-4-2 – ON THE ATTACK
It will be a seismic shock if Saudi Arabia doesn’t advance into the final stages of World Cup qualification.
In this intense arena, games should have to be watched. This week’s friendly with Kuwait could therefore be a testing ground for such a scenario.
4-4-2 remains a formation rarely used in the Middle East. But its merits are obvious in the right situation.
These benefits are especially impressive if Al Shehri (or Al Hamdan if fit), Al Muwallad, the prolific Hassan Al Amri, and the magical Salem Al Dawsari could begin.
Strength and athleticism in midfield are the key for this system to work effectively. Hilal’s striding Mohamed Kanno appears to be an obvious beneficiary.
Club colleague Al Breik, too, with his superior engine on the right.
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