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Grading Guoan: The 2011 Season

Back at the end of July, I handed out my midterm report card to Guoan based on positions, the forwards got an A-, the midfield a B, the defense a B+, the goaltending an A-, and the coaching an A.  A pretty good report card, one I wish I would have gotten back in my school days.  Now that the season is over, let’s revisit those grades and go position by position.

Goalkeeping

Yang Zhi – A
This was simple enough, he was ‘s Chinese Player of the Year, he played every minute of every match, let in less goals than any other keeper, and led the club to an impressive 2nd place finish.

Defense

Xu Yunlong – A-
I’m a big fan of Xu and this grade may seem a little too high, but the man impressed with his solid defending all year long as well as serving as an excellent captain and team leader.  Even in his advanced age, he played in 24 matches, only taking a break for injury and toward the end of the season when Guoan’s position was wrapped up.  Not sure how many more seasons he has left, but it’s hard to imagine a Guoan team without him in it.

Zhang Xinxin – A
I can’t really figure out why Zhang has yet to get a callup to the national team.  He was excellent all year long, a natural wingback with speed and the ability to get involved in the attack, but also always focused first and foremost on his defensive duties.  He started all 30 matches this year and played all but 16 minutes.  He scored two goals and contributed two assists.  A great year for this star.

Zhang Yonghai – B-
I don’t want to be too harsh on Zhang, he played well in his 19 starts, but there is a reason that once Senne came, he rarely made it onto the field.  He is an important part of Guoan’s depth chart, but he won’t be the first choice.

Zhou Ting – B+
Zhou played 29 matches and scored twice, a great year for the 33 year old defender.  His speed, or lack thereof, was an issue at times, though he was still able to shut down Feng Renliang when the sides met at Worker’s Stadium.

Lei Tenglong – B
The youngster looks like he’ll be an impact player for years to come, this year he only played in 7 matches, but he scored once and is quickly becoming a favorite of fans.

Francois Senne – B
Senne is big and a force on the pitch, once he joined the side he was a regular starter, but he’s prone to make costly errors.

Yu Yang – B
He only played in 2 matches but scored 1 goal, not much to say about him, though he’ll see a lot more minutes during the next few years.

Midfield

Darko Matic – A
This is among the easiest of grades, Darko is a force in the midfield, period. He played in 29 matches this season and was absolutely solid.

Walter Martinez- B
This is one of the hardest grades, he scored a ton of goals, but also blew a ton of chances. He wasn’t used late in the year and is a tough call, but he’s deserving of at least a B.

Piao Cheng – B-
Piao was massive at the beginning of the year, showing a poise well beyond his years, the problem was that it didn’t continue throughout the season. When he returned from his injury, he just didn’t look as good as he did earlier, a little too tentative and too slow for the Chinese Super League.

Zhang Xizhe – C+
The kid still has a ways to go, at times he showed bits of brilliance, but he’s not there yet, hopefully Shao Jiayi will help bring him along.

Wang Xiaolong – B+
Wang had a breakout year this season, scoring some impressive goals and having a unique midfield presence. He has speed, but he also uses his physicality to get around people and create chances. Camacho take notice, this guy should be given a look.

Wang Changqing – B
C. Qing didn’t get a lot of love from Pacheco this year, he was in the lineup at the start of the year, but after that rarely got a start, most often coming off the bench. Despite his lack of minutes, he still managed to score four goals and was a weapon when needed.

Xu Liang- B+
This guy’s a true fan favorite and was on the field in almost every match this season. He set up goals, he scored goals, and he defended the fans constantly.

Zhu Yifan – C
He got more playing time than he did last year, but still only featured in 18 games. Zhu’s still young, it’s hard to tell if he’s going to be a star or if he’s just going to be an average Chinese Super League player.

Forwards
Joel Griffiths – B+
Griff had his best year in green this year, scoring a ton of goals and being more consistent than he has in the past. It seems he’s leaving Guoan, his fiery presence on the pitch will surely be missed.

Keita – C
I can’t put the blame on him, Pacheco never really gave him a chance, he looked good in the air when he got a run out, but his finishing wasn’t all there.

Roberto – B
Another guy who was never really given a fair shot, when on the pitch he scored, it was that simple. Unfortunately he wasn’t on the pitch that much and Pacheco didn’t believe he had a longterm role on the team, so he was a midseason exit.

Others who played this season include Yang Yun, Tan Tiancheng, Lu Jiang, and Li Tixiang, though none of them saw significant minutes to be graded fairly.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere.

He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years.

Chemers’ credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers.

For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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