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Pub Talk: The “Fall’s Here, Our Brains Aren’t” Edition

This week in the pub, there’s a touch of boredom in the air, despite two matches since they last came down the pub.  Maybe it’s the fall air that has their minds elsewhere as they discuss the current Chinese Super League picture, focusing heavily on winning and losing streaks.

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): So after a couple of Pub Talks with no Chinese Super League games to talk about because of the international break, suddenly we’ve got two rounds to look back on.

B. Cheng (Beijing Guoan): Yes, things have definitely heated up

S: I think the most exciting stuff at the moment is the relegation battle

B: i’d have to agree, those sides keep producing crazy results

S: Chengdu must be gutted eh? Score with two minutes left to make it 2-1 against Shenzhen, who are just once place above them, then Shenzhen strike right at the death to make it 2-20

B: I always thought Chengdu was definitely going down, though if they could have pulled that out, they would have had a chance at staying up, now I think their fate is more or less sealed.

S: Definitely. Its interesting to note that last year’s promoted teams look like finishing top and bottom of the Chinese Super League this year. I wonder what odds you would have got on that at the start of the season?

B: I figured Liaoning would be around where they are, just didn’t think they’d be quite as high.  I think the biggest surprise right now is Jiangsu, they still have a shot at Asia and they really struggled. Changchun as well, that is one of the most under-rated sides this year.

S: Jiangsu went on a great run, has Kenneth gone into hiding since it ended? Nevertheless, they’re still doing pretty good. But the ACL places are still up for grabs, your boys surely have one, who is your money on to grab the fourth?

B: I wouldn’t guarantee we have one just yet, but I think the big fight is for that last spot. That spot is really up for grabs, there are six or seven teams that have a chance right now.

C: yeah the results in the last two rounds have really spiced it up, its so close. including Shandong losing four games in a row. Seems Shenhua are not the only top side screwing up their season royally.

B: I wouldn’t be suprised if its a managerial issue at Shandong. It’s not getting any easier as they face Dalian this weekend who will certainly be hoping for a win. It’s going to be an exciting few weeks

C: Yeah definately. So whats happened in Beijing the past couple of rounds? Any interesting tit-bits?

B: Last night was a disappointing loss, our third of the year. The manager has kept Walter Martinez on the bench lately, speculation is its because he won’t be around next year. Our road form has been horrendous, our last road win was back in May!!!

C: I think even Shenhua have probably won on the road more recently than that.

B: Our last road win was May 8, pretty shocking, too many draws, and that’s why Guangzhou are champs and we aren’t this year. We have what should be an easy road match at Shenzhen this weekend, then a very important midweek cup match next week at Hangzhou.

S: Yeah. I saw a poll in the Chinese football press asking readers if Guangzhou would beat Shandong’s record of winning the Chinese Super League with 5 games to spare.

B: I have a lot of hope that Changchun will beat them this weekend…

C: I think its quite possible that Guangzhou will remain unbeaten. People might say, that shows the Chinese Super League is weak…. but remember Arsenal won the EPL a few seasons ago unbeaten.

B: Yeah, those people would be very wrong. I still am holding out hope they won’t go unbeaten, they have plenty of hard games and very little to play for while other sides still have a lot on the line.

C: That’s true. It would take a spectacular collapse for Guangzhou not to seal it… so they are probably going to take their foot off the gas a bit.

B: I would be surprised, actually, if Guangzhou can mathmatically close it out before 5 games, Guoan faces off against Shenzhen and Henan in their next two matches and there are 7 matches left, both of those should be wins. But the league title race has been over since Guangzhou drew at Worker’s Stadium.

C: That’s right.  So I think I have a complaint to make. There hasn’t been enough absurd or stupid goings-on in Chinese football lately for us to make light of. Frankly, I’m at a loss.

B: Shen Xiangfu got suspended for 3 matches (well, 2 and a reserve game) and fined for running on the field. (Shen’s the Changchun coach, the incident took place Wednesday night and can be seen in the video).

S: Sounds quite funny. Although he can’t really complain about the punishment. Even if I’d like to see more coaches running on the pitch to liven proceedings up a bit.

B: That’s all I’ve seen in the way of stupid and absurd, bad refereeing as always, but the league’s not bringing the funny these days.

S: Yes. Not really good for the Pub is it? At least we had the national team not being able to find an interpreter for Camacho who understood football terminology, and that player not being able to make it to Jordan because he couldn’t get his passport updated in time.

B: Right, well…I think we’ll be okay in the next few weeks, next week we’ll have another two games to chat about, including league cup matches, the league isn’t bringing the funny, but there’s certainly some excitement.

S: Yeah. Well I’m glad to say I feel more confident about Shenhua, even although they promptly got beat by Guangzhou after they finally got a win against Shaanxi, I think they are looking good to move up a few places at least if they get the breaks.

B: They are set in mid-table hell, it’s kind of funny, they are the only side who aren’t either battling for the ACL or hoping to stay up.

S: Right that’s true, I noticed that in your piece about the last round’s attendances. I was going to say, if they hadn’t had that terrible run, they’d have had a solid chance of an ACL place.

So as I alluded to in my report, Guangzhou v Shenhua was probably the first meaningless game of the season.

The only two teams whoose fate is more or less set already.

B: That’s a good point, and they’ll play again in a few more weeks.

S: Yeah forgot about that. For Shenhua, I think the rest of the reason is about getting over that terrible run, and giving priority to players who are definitely going to be around next season.

B: Exactly, Guoan’s starting to do the same thing, though we definitely still have something to play for.  I know we’ve talked about how its pointless to predict the Chinese Super League, but I say its going to be us and Changchun in the ACL.

S: I think so. There is also the small matter of the China Derby at the end of the season. But, speaking of pointless games, its going to be something of a damp squib, I fear. Such a shame. It could have been very differnet.

B: Guoan’s schedule down the stretch is going to be very hard so we really need maximum points from our next two (Shenzhen and Henan).  After that we have Shandong, Changchun, Tianjin, Shaanxi, and then Shanghai.  That’s a tough run, but hopefully the cushion we have will make all the difference.

S: So the Pub seems a bit quiet and empty this week. Time to drink up and call it a day?

B: Yeah, I guess after all this time I’m getting sick of your mug, haha, perhaps next week there will be absolutely nothing to talk about.  Though hopefully I’ll be rubbing it in as Yanbian heads to the semifinals!

S: Hhahahah. Don’t get me started again on Shenhua playing their home cup game over a hundred miles away! Ok cheers for now

B: Cheers!

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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