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Johor Darul Ta'zim

Why JDT move is biggest challenge of Mohamadou Sumareh's career so far

6:00 PM SGT 11/2/21
Mohamadou Sumareh, Johor Darul Ta'zim, 11 Feb 2021
Another attacking weapon to the arsenal, we look at what it takes for Sumareh to push himself ahead of Safawi Rasid in the pecking order at JDT

From Perlis to Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) FC via PDRM, Pahang and Police Tero.

That’s the journey that Mohamadou Sumareh has taken to be part of the reigning Malaysia Super League champions after he was unveiled by JDT earlier this week as one of their signings for the 2021 season.

One of the key players in Tan Cheng Hoe’s Malaysia national team, Sumareh’s arrival undoubtedly adds to the already incredible depth available at JDT that will push the reigning champions even further ahead of their rivals.

At 26 years of age, the Southern Tigers have snapped up a player who is going into his peak years and possibly a player who is looking to make that last step to maturing his game.

Whilst other teams have a ready-made replacement for the first choice, Sumareh’s inclusion means that JDT will have another layer of back-up to the second choice for the wide forward positions in their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Gonzalo Cabrera and Safawi Rasid are the duo who have earned themselves a starting position in the two wide positions with Sumareh and Akhyar Rashid being the back-up and further behind the pecking order are the young duo of Arif Aiman and Ramadhan Saifullah.

It’s not just Cabrera and Safawi that Sumareh has to look to displace but the two behind him have already shown plenty of promise despite the truncated 2020 season and will really be pushing for a playing berth as well.

Just on the fact that Cabrera and Safawi have been there and done it before for JDT, they will for sure start the season as first choice with Sumareh and the other three pretenders looking to challenge them.

Sumareh has often been one of the first names on the team sheet at his previous teams, but that won’t be the case at JDT.

JDT’s head coach Benjamin Mora will likely have the same headache as Cheng Hoe has for Harimau Malaya in the sense that both Safawi and Sumareh prefers the wide right position over the left which likely means that only one of those two gets to play at any single time.

That is not to say that both players aren’t capable of playing from the left but their most effective and comfortable position is on the right. What Sumareh would bring to the team will be his tendency to attack down the flank rather than cut inside, which could be a ploy against certain oppositions.

Perhaps there has been some measure of comfort in the past, or maybe not. But the fact that for the first time in his M-League career he is not assured of a starting position even when he’s fit will surely spur him on to train better and raise his game.

One factor which could play into Sumareh’s hands is his partnership and understanding with Matthew Davies, who is expected to fill the right back slot. The duo has harnessed that relationship from their time at Pahang and it’s a friendship that extends beyond the pitch, with both known to be good mates.

It is a partnership that has also worked internationally with Cheng Hoe himself at times opting to put Sumareh on the right to work in tandem with Davies, to some measure of success as was seen during that exciting match against United Arab Emirates during a World Cup qualifying match in 2019.

Mora will have a conundrum when it comes to his selection given the plethora of options but if an opponent is deemed weak on their defensive left against combination play between a right back and a right forward, then the pairing of Sumareh and Davies could be summoned into action in those situations.

There will be plenty of opportunity for Sumareh to stake a claim even if a rotation system is put in place by Mora as JDT will be competing in three different competitions in the 2021 season, assuming the Covid-19 pandemic will not wreck further havoc on the fixtures.

For sure Mora will have to consider some form of rotation to keep his players fresh for the Super League, Malaysia Cup and the AFC Champions League on top of the possible international commitment for a large chunk of his squad come June period.

The best training facilities in the country, the best recovery processes and equipments in the country and a club that is geared towards a winning mentality - the platform is already constructed to give Sumareh a chance to take the next step in his career and push his game to the next level and there can be no excuses not to.