BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Negeri Sembilan head coach, Azraai Khor Abdullah has admitted that he is still unable to identify his side's best eleven, since taking over at the Malaysia Super League (MSL) strugglers in February.
Azraai had been appointed as Jorg Seinbrenner's replacement on February 28, following the Deers' poor start to their first season back in the top tier.
Azraai. Photo from Singapore FA
The Deers showed little improvement under him, losing 1-0 to Azraai's former club and home state team Kedah in the FA Cup, and a 4-0 hammering by Pahang in the league. They currently sit in last place in the MSL standings.
When met by Goal after a friendly match against Premier League side UKM FC in Bangi, Selangor which ended goalless, Azraai admitted his relief at being afforded more time to find their best eleven, due to the recent league fixture change.
"I've been here a little over a month, yet after all the sparring and friendly matches I haven't been able to identify my first team.
"My players keep getting injured and I have had to work around this. I find the fixture change a blessing in disguise!," remarked the three-time Malaysia Cup-winning coach on Friday.
With Negeri only scheduled to play their next competitive game on April 14, the club's coaching staff has been working hard to improve two aspects that have been worrying Azraai; the players' fitness and their midfield.
"When I took over, their fitness was below par. But praise Allah, tonight I can see that the more senior players can keep up with the pace of a high-intensity game. We've been working on the players' fitness for the past two weeks, and I'm now satisfied that it has reached a good level.
"We'll play another friendly next week; against ATM FA. So now we need to work on one department of the team; the midfield. It was obvious just now that our midfield was struggling to keep possession. Some of the midfielders were not up to scratch, only when changes were made in the second half did we restore mobility in the middle of the park," explained the 65-year old coach.
But when asked whether he will make major changes to the team roster in the mid-season transfer window, Azraai responded in the negative, as he is worried of disrupting the established rhythm.
"I don't think that is necessary. If we introduce drastic changes, we may end up sacrificing the team's rhythm, which is something that I need to consider as well. We can't simply follow what other clubs are doing, we need to stick with what works for us.
"Furthermore, our local boys have given me no worries, unlike the rest. It will work out over time, and the solution to our woes is still in me finding the best combination for the first eleven," noted Azraai.