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Beijing Guoan

What’s Wrong With Guoan?

After an excellent campaign that saw the club maintain a very impressive record and give up the least amount of goals, there were high hopes going into the 2012 season. Yet through one ACL match and one league match, a lot of that hope has quickly disappeared as the defense has been turned upside down, giving up five goals in the two matches, and the manager seems at a loss as to what to do.

There are no easy solutions to Beijing’s current problems, in part it has to do with the roster, but in part, it’s just a natural sophomore slump for Pacheco. The second year is always the hardest, if he can get them back on track quickly, or at least get them back in Asia, he can move past the difficulties of year two and everything should be fine.

What’s going on? How does he get past it? Let’s try and address those issues.

The defense
Francois Sene had two very bad games, consistently losing his man, playing a part in no less than three of the five goals, and just generally sucking. No need to worry about that anymore now that he’s out for two or three months after going down injured in the Fuli match. The cynic would say his injury will at least mean he will have to be out of the lineup for awhile, however losing him for so long creates its own problems, especially because Lei Tenglong will be out at least for a little longer and Zhang Yonghai doesn’t look like he’ll be able to play until the transfer window opens. This leaves the club seriously depleted in the middle, with the options being a young Yu Yang or a not ready for primetime Lang Zheng. No matter who Pacheco chooses, the learning curve is sure to be high.

Xu Liang
Yes, the silver haired wonder is a topic, and problem, all his own. He looks lost in the midfield, finding a way to give up the ball either through passes that are off the mark or mental lapses. For someone who has been in the league as long as he has, it doesn’t make sense that teams are only now figuring out how to cover him, but it seems like both Ulsan and Fuli knew exactly how to deal with Xu. By putting enough pressure on Xu and stopping him, teams have discovered that they can stop Guoan’s attack all together. Xu always wants to be the hero and pressures himself to take shots he shouldn’t or just do too much, instead of letting his teammates pick up the slack, and it gets him trouble. It doesn’t seem likely that Pacheco will “go young” and give up on Xu anytime soon, so hopefully he’ll start believing more in his teammates.

Tactics
Guoan has never been a boot it up the field and hope style longball team. They’ve never had that kind of height, but they’ve also been about playing the “beautiful game” the right way. Yet that’s what they’ve reverted to more often than not the last two games. A team that would regularly score after putting together double digit passes to move the ball up the field is now trying to do it through the air. Granted, this season they have the 1.94 Reinaldo at the other end of the pitch, but its just not Guoan’s style and with a lone striker, it doesn’t do all that much for you. A lot of this is due to the midfield issues, with Guoan running out of ideas, but it’s also just laziness. There seems to be a general lack of teamwork and understanding which has led to a variety of problems. The preseason is when these problems should have been worked out, but hopefully they’ll come together quickly.

Squad Decisions
These are the hardest to examine from a fan’s point of view, we don’t have access to each training session, but some of Pacheco’s moves just haven’t made that much sense. Starting Zhu Yifan didn’t pan out and the youngster was quickly subbed off for Piao Cheng, who proceeded to have a fabulous performance, but failed to be given any time against Fuli. Taking off Darko Matic the last match, especially having lost the experienced Francois, meant the defense was without cover. For whatever reason it seems that Pacheco rates Reinaldo over Serbian striker AK15. All of these are head scratching decisions that Pacheco made last week. It will be very interesting to see what the manager does against Shanghai and Brisbane, as he tries to find the right starting XI.

Over and over again, I’ve said we should trust in Jaime Pacheco, and he has delivered. I’m still willing to put my faith in him, though if this keeps up into May, I might have to reconsider. While excuses are sure to be made, a failure this year will be very disappointing and considering how much room the club gave him, the blame will fall squarely to the manager and the players.

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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Yiddo Huayi

    15/03/2012 at 16:02

    How do the wheelings and dealing in the off-season work in China?

    Does the manager draw up a list of players to leave and players to entice in or is that up to the Chair or (shudder) Director of Football if there is one?

    Is this the squad that Pacheco wanted or what he has to work with after someone else has tried to make some money trading players?

    I note that Shenzhen Ruby supposedly has a squad that is mostly of Twuntier’s design and he is saying how they hope to get back in to the CSL next season (which makes me wish Guangdong Sunray Cave and Chongqing FC to deal to Shenzhen majorly).

    • bcheng

      15/03/2012 at 16:28

      It varies heavily by team whether its the manager, the chairman, or whoever (as is obvious, Shanghai and other clubs were signing players without having a head coach).

      According to all the sources I have, this squad was unique because the club’s ownership left it up entirely to Pacheco to make decisions about what he wanted to do. The club didn’t really lose any major players (not counting the foreigners, who Pacheco didn’t want to keep). If things don’t work out, a lot of the blame’s going to fall to him.

      • Yiddo Huayi

        15/03/2012 at 16:39

        Cheers.

        Whatever, good luck for your Jing-Hu derby. Not fussed one way or other (perhaps should support your lot due to family connections), but Guoan probably edge out Shenhua as you don’t have Anelka!

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