Al Arabi midfielder Diego Jardel in an Exclusive Interview with QSL Online.
Diego Jardel has been the livewire in the Al Arabi midfield for one-and-a-half seasons now. The Brazilian was the only surviving overseas professional player as The Dream Team overhauled the squad ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Al Arabi are currently languishing at the eighth position with 15 points as the QNB Stars League has crossed the halfway mark. They tasted victory, against Al Khor in Week 12, after a losing streak that stretched to five matches (Al Arabi lost to Al Sailiya, Al Gharafa, Al Ahli, Qatar SC and Al Duhail in successive weeks).
Ahead of Al Arabi’s game against formidable Al Sadd in Week 13 of the QNB Stars League, dubbed the Qatar Derby, the 28-year-old Jardel spoke to QSL Online in an exclusive interview.
How do you assess Al Arabi’s performance in the first half of 2018-19 season QNB Stars League?
It was a whole new season, new goals and new opportunities for me and my club. We had a roller-coaster ride. I feel that we deserved a better position as we had a great mentality.
How did you manage to get many positive results after the big loss to Al Sadd in Week 2?
Look, we started off by beating Al Khor in Week 1. Then, in the second game, we lost big-time to Al Sadd (1-10) and that was demoralising for everyone at the club. After that, we pulled up our socks and that reflected on our performances.
What caused the slump in Al Arabi’s form midway through the first leg of QNB Stars League?
Somewhere, we lost the plot. We failed to strike a right balance between defence and offence. We just couldn’t transform ourselves into a winning unit. Things just didn’t click. There was a change at the helm, with Hatem (Al Moaddeb) replacing Luka (Bonacic).
What difference did the change of coach make on your game?
There hasn’t been much of a difference in our game, other than that both have different styles. That’s natural. After the Al Sadd game, Luka changed our formation from 4-4-3 to 3-5-2 and that helped us record some wins.
Luka was more defensive and prepared us more to play on counter-attack. Hatem looks for a balance in our game. He favours keeping the ball more.
How do the players adapt to the changes and how do you plan to make a turnaround?
Now, Hatem and his technical staff are doing everything possible for us. It’s our duty to fight for them, fight for us and fight for one of the most-decorated clubs in Qatar.
What’re the areas for improvement as you embark on the crucial stage of QNB Stars League?
From our perspective, a lot of things must be improved. Even though it’s difficult to keep the same level throughout a league competition, we must make a strong comeback into the competition. Now is the time for that. We must score more goals. Players must help each other more.
What’re your targets as the QNB Stars League is into its 13th round?
There’re still many games remaining. We can do more. We’ve to keep working hard and we’ve our chances. We’re better than we were at this stage last season. I would say a fourth-place finish isn’t impossible for us.
Personally, I take it one game at a time. I want to play maximum number of matches and help Al Arabi finish the league in a respectable position.
How do you look forward to your match against Al Sadd?
There’s no doubt that Al Sadd are a very dangerous team. We must’ve the courage to face them. We must be defensively better. We need to keep the ball and try to score.
Do you think Al Arabi can turn the tables on Al Sadd this time around?
Why not? I wish to believe so. Al Sadd aren’t unbeatable. Al Ahli had registered a big win over them. We can actually win this game, provided all of our players play their roles perfectly.
What difference do you find in the Al Arabi team now compared to your squad that played against Al Sadd in the first leg?
The team composition is the same, but some of our players hadn’t settled into their stride then. It was early in the league and our new professional recruits Mailson Farias and Franco Hurtado took time to adjust. I must admit that it wasn’t easy for them to adapt fast. Now, the team is set.
How do you compare the Al Arabi and Al Sadd teams?
Al Sadd have a strong squad. I like the style of Xavi, more so because we play in the same position even though I play in the defensive midfield this season.
In my opinion, Akram Afif is the best Qatari player around. In fact, he can be rated in the same category in the QNB Stars League with the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o.
Finally, how have you found your stint in Qatar football?
It gives me immense pleasure to play in Qatar and represent a reputed club like Al Arabi. I thank everyone for the support. Our fans and the team management all helped me feel comfortable. The club showed its trust in me by retaining my services this season and I’m indebted to the team.