The best CSL-game, I saw this past weekend was Hangzhou Greentown against Beijing Gouan. A very intense, well-played and dramatic game, where Hangzhou won 2-1 and the home side was quite lucky that the Beijing strikers didn’t have a clinical day and of course the keeper number 22 Yang Zhi made a giant mistake.
Hangzhou was playing in their 4-2-3-1 system, while Beijing looked more like a 4-4-1-1 formation with 11 Kanoute in a free role behind number 8 Guerron. I do believe this was one of Hangzhou’s best performances this season in terms of concept and style. For the first time, the game plan looked clear to me.
I saw a home side better on the ball, more secure in the possession phases and with an offensive structure where number 11, the Japanese striker, Oguro did a good job, working hard and always free as a station to play early for the Hangzhou defenders. They would try to play through the Beijing organization finding their majority of players in the center of the pitch, but also using the space outside the organization, when Beijing would close down the middle.
I also like Hangzhou because they bring in a lot of young Chinese players, which is fantastic for the future of Chinese football. Not many teams in the CSL except Shenxin, SIGP, and Hangzhou dare to use 20-21 years old players in the starting 11.
On Saturday, Hangzhou had number 5 central defender Sun Zhengao, 19 years old, number 8 central midfielder Chen Zhongliu and number 21 offensive midfielder Xie Pengfei in the starting 11, and still they manage to beat a strong team like Beijing Gouan – impressive.
In my last column we discussed the Chinese national team (thanks for all your comments and questions), and the key to improve this team in the future is also to let young Chinese players play regularly in the CSL. They do not develop enough on reserve teams or just in training – they need match play in the highest level and room to make mistakes and learn from it, so massive respect to Hangzhou for bringing in the next generation of Chinese players.
To improve this step even more, I would recommend that all clubs in the CSL have to start with two players under 23 years in the starting 11. This would force the clubs, GM’s and owners to look at the young players, take their academy seriously and develop 32 young players every week due to 16 teams playing at least with two young players in the starting eleven.
This is actually something a big country like England also has discussed as well due to their problems on the international scene, so it could be a useful method for a football development country like China to move forward.
Dalian should be in top 4
On Friday, I watched Shenhua against Dalian Aerbin at Hongkou Stadium, and I have said this before, but in my perspective when you look at the squad from Dalian, they should be in a higher league position. If the team had the right structure and found the correct concept, they should be able to be from position 1-4 in the CSL.
If we look at the defense then Dalian could use a strong central defender to improve the team, but maybe they should put down number 4 Li Xuepeng, who played as a central defender for China against Holland. Very calm and stabile – he could be useful for Dalian, because they do have some central defensive issues.
On the offensive part – Dalian are very strong. The building up phase is good with 8 Rochemback controlling the game and delivering quality passes and the four offensive players is some of the best in CSL. Peter Utaka – I know this players very well from Danish football – is not a right midfielder. He could be top scorer in the CSL if Dalian set him up in the right positions, but on Friday Utaka was right midfielder, which does not suits him or the team that good.
9 Hoarau is a very physical strong attacker, especially in the box, but Dalian need to set up more crosses if they want the best out of Hoarau, because he is a classic box striker. The two Chinese offensive players 22 Yu Dabao and 40 Yu Hanchao are some of my favorite offensive Chinese players in the league. Very skilled, fast, and with a lot of flair. They can really create trouble for an opponent defense especially together with Utaka and Hoarau, but the coach needs to set the right tactic and train the patterns, so they can work together and create more chances.
So Dalian has a top offense and with a better central defender, they should be able to compete for number 1-4 in the CSL. I really like their squad, and they are better than number 10, which is their current position.
Now only 3 teams the bottom
In the button of the league – it looks like Tianjin, Changchun and Wuhan is left to fight for that one spot to avoid relegation this season. After the SIGP win against Wuhan – there is 7 points up to Shenxin, who is number 13, so Wuhan, Changchun and Tianjin are almost isolated in the button.
I watched Wuhan live on Saturday in Shanghai, and they did a correct thing changing their defense, but they still lack of creating scoring chances. The offensive part in the team is not strong enough and their key offensive players are not set up in the correct situations, where they can be useful. And this is of course a tactical issue.
Number 6 Cho Won-Hee is very important for the structure, but also number 10 Santos should be played more in the deep instead of in his feet. And then number 9 Wang Yunlong need more pitch time. He is fast and good 1:1, which is what the team needs to score goals right now.
Guangzhou Fully won with new head coach in a classic 4-4-2 with a lot of focus on the defensive pressure, where Sven Göran Eriksson has done a good job these first weeks. The team had a better structure and worked harder for each other – especially a player like Davi did well in the game.