1. Guangzhou’s dominance
I admit, I’ve been a hater and have argued the big spending southerners are going to fall apart at some point, but now with a 9 point lead, it appears they have a stranglehold on the title. They’ve yet to lose a match, though had many close calls. If the luck runs out, it would still be possible for someone to catch them, but only if Guoan can beat them on Monday night.
2. CFA Cup
The return of the Chinese Fa Cup after a long absence has brought back a lot of excitement. The format (guaranteeing home matches for the higher ranked side) and length from one round to the next has led to some frustration, but there have been a number of great moments like Yanbian’s run to the quarterfinals and Shaanxi’s 13-12 penalty kick defeat of Guangzhou. With one exception, the quarterfinals are pretty much what we expected them to be, so it means the top sides need to keep in shape, even if a certain someone has the title wrapped up in the final weeks.
Perhaps I’m too far on the “inside” or perhaps it’s just in Beijing, but it feels like the Chinese Super League is back. Copping to the fact that you enjoy Chinese soccer no longer has to be admitted in hushed voices as if you were saying you used to be a crackhead. Attendances under 10k are a thing of the past for the most part (though a few sides are still struggling), with most sides having attendances in the 15k-20k region and some, like Beijing and Guangzhou, able to double those numbers.
4. Dalian’s disappearance
Once the league’s most powerful team, part of the “big 4” (Dalian, Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong), the past few years has seen the side struggle. I expected that this could be a comeback year for the side, instead injuries have meant an almost completely different starting lineup from opening day and that the side is stuck fighting to stay up.
It’s not the first time I’m addressing this subject, unfortunately it also probably won’t be the last. A number of incidents around the country this year (unfortunately multiple ones involving Guoan fans) have once again brought the issue to light, but the league has yet to do anything about it. Hopefully the second half of the season will be without incident, but it’s time for the league to step up instead of leaving it on the fans.
If we’re talking about a new level of legitimacy for the league, at the same time, this is something we have to talk about. The league’s two top sides have had to deal with horrible pitches and matches rescheduled due to their home venues hosting concerts. In fact, arguably the league’s biggest match of the year, the tilt between Beijing and Guangzhou on Monday night was originally scheduled for Saturday, but had to be rescheduled due to a Saturday night concert. Shanghai have also had a match moved due to a concert. The mind fairly boggles….
7. Midseason transfers
Okay, so it’s only happened in the last few weeks, but its still a topic of interest. I’m not only talking about the Conca signing, though obviously that’s the one everybody is talking about. A number of sides have switched foreigners halfway through the season in hopes of challenging for the title or just staying up. It’s not only foreigners, major domestic moves (Hao Junmin’s return, Mao Jianqing going to Hangzhou, Yan Xiangchuang to Dalian) have also taken place.
8. The relegation fight
Currently two sides who aren’t strangers to the relegation zone, Shenzhen (9 points) and Chengdu (11 points), sit in the last two spots. However, Nanchang and Henan are level on points with Chengdu and Dalian only 3 points ahead of them. No matter what happens at the top, it’s going to be an interesting race at the bottom.