RIYADH: Al-Ettifaq manager Steven Gerrard has said that the club will need to do “a lot” of business in the January transfer window to get to the level he wants in the Roshn Saudi League.
Al-Ettifaq were beaten 3-1 at Al-Nassr in Riyadh on Friday night, with Mohammed Al-Kuwaykibi scoring a late consolation following goals from Alex Telles, Marcelo Brozovic and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The side are sitting eighth in the 18-team table and have not won in the Roshn Saudi League in seven matches. Al-Kuwaykibi’s strike was just Al-Ettifaq’s second goal since their last victory at the end of October.
With attacking options a priority, Gerrard insisted after the defeat to Al-Nassr — a side his team beat 2-1 at the beginning of the season — that it is vital Al-Ettifaq strengthen substantially for the second half of the campaign.
“We have already had important meetings at Al-Ettifaq in terms of mid-season updates and where every individual is, and where the group is at. The message, in summary, that we have sent is that we need to be aggressive, we need to be ruthless, and we need to make a lot of changes to make this team more competitive,” Gerrard said.
“We are really happy with a lot of individuals, both foreign and some local players. But if you look at us, once Moussa (Dembele) came out of the team (through injury), the weaknesses in our team have been highlighted, as have the options we had.
“We need to show in this window, and also the summer window, that we mean business and we want to be competitive at the top of the league, and not where we are at the moment. It’s a collective thing — the players here and now need to give more, and people need to step up, and, at the right time, we will hopefully be able to make significant changes to the team and the squad. Hopefully, at the back end of January, you will see a different, stronger and more competitive squad.”
Dembele, the former Fulham, Celtic, Lyon and Atletico Madrid striker, remains the club’s top scorer this season with seven goals despite only recently returning to action after missing more than two months of the season through knee surgery. The Frenchman netted the winner against Al-Nassr in August.
Gerrard added: “Moussa Dembele not being available has taken away a lot of goals from our team. When were able to field a full-strength team, we were picking up more positive results and we were in a more positive position in the table. When Moussa came out, we haven’t had the necessary people stepping forward to create or score goals.
“We have struggled in the final third. That’s been highlighted and is an area we need to address quickly. We are aware of the positive, strong start and we are aware of the results changing when we haven’t been able to put our strongest team on the pitch.
“In Moussa’s absence, we haven’t had consistency from individuals in the final third. If you look at the numbers on goals and assists in our front line, it’s very reliant on Moussa Dembele — we need to get in a situation where there’s more help and support to Moussa in the final third.”
Gerrard also revealed that the Brazilian attacker Vitinho, formerly of CSKA Moscow and Flamengo, will be re-registered in the Al-Ettifaq squad after a long period out injured.
“I think the return of Vitinho, who is working extremely well, will bring more creation and more goals into our front line. We will be registering him. He will be registered once he’s back fit,” Gerrard said.
Al-Ettifaq’s final game before the Roshn Saudi League breaks until February is at home to Al-Hazem on Thursday.