Is a trip to one of the two sides doing worse off this season a blessing for a struggling Shenhua, or the latest calamity-in-waiting for a season already written off? Your weekly Shenhua preview will be watching from behind the sofa.
Last Time Out
In something of a barometer of the sands of change, one of China’s traditional powerhouses find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table after losing to a nouveau-riche Cantonese side. Shide were the latest victims of a Guangzhou R&F side boasting a perfect record sullied only by Shanghai Shenhua’s only win of the season.
Shenhua themselves didn’t play last weekend. An assorted collection of chancers were seen strolling around Hongkou in blue shirts, managing the somewhat impressive feat of making the 2012 vintage Tianjin Teda side look like winners.
Causes for Optimism…
The much-maligned Shenhua backline continues to look reasonably competent, with Dai Lin returning to partner Moises at centre-half, and Wang Lin retaining his spot at left-back.
And, while this may be clutching at straws, Shenhua will really have to do something special to put in quite so terrible a performance two weeks in a row.
… and for Concern
Where to start? Does this site have a word count?
Shambolic off the pitch. Leaving aside the debate on whether five games in is too early to fire a manager, it’s generally the sign of a halfway-functional football club that said manager would be informed of his departure more than a matter of minutes before a fixture.
Shambolic on the pitch. A complete and utter lack of organization and effort, spearheaded by the sublime triumverate of Mathieu “but I scored one in five in the English fourth tier” Manset, Jiang “I used to be able to run and control a football five years ago” Kun and Nicolas “screw you guys, it’s my ball and if I can’t play in midfield then I’m going home” Anelka.
North Terrace Preview boldly predicts that Manset will never score in the Chinese Super League — even Shenhua’s long-suffering fans turned on the big Frenchman following his withdrawal against Teda.
Well, who do you expect? Rumors that Anelka has also politicked his way into the Shenhua tea lady’s role may be unfounded thus far, but don’t be surprised to see pictures leak out of Nico sitting proudly in front of a tepid teapot while lighting cigars with 100 kuai notes. Heating the water is just such an effort, you see.
North Terrace Preview couldn’t care less whether Anelka is a very famous footballer who signs autographs and learns Chinese. Nicolas Anelka was brought to Shanghai Shenhua as a former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Arsenal striker (sorry Liverpool), and not to stroll around in his own half showing off some nice control and great little five-yard sideways passes.
It gets worse before it gets better. While there’s undoubtedly individual talent there, Shenhua looked further than ever from a cohesive side with organization, desire and determination last time out. Not having a proper manager for the week in between fixtures isn’t generally the best approach to solve this kind of problem.
Expect to see Shenhua, poor travellers even when looking vaguely competent at Hongkou, struggle in the north-east and possibly end round seven at the bottom of the Chinese Super League.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015