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North Terrace Preview: Shanghai Shenhua v Tianjin Teda

Your weekly Shenhua preview returns in optimistic spirits ahead of this Friday’s bottom-half clash.

Last Time Out

Shenhua’s tricky start to the season continued with their second early-season local derby. Tigana opted for a more orthodox 4-4-2 featuring Cao Yunding and Feng Renliang from the start, and Anelka and Griffiths paired up front. Despite being rewarded with an early Anelka goal, Shenhua were quickly pegged back and the match petered out into a 1-1 draw.

Tianjin, meanwhile, sank to a 2-1 home loss against Guangzhou R&F, who continue their high-flying start to the season.

Causes for Optimism…

The season could start here for Shenhua — following on from fixtures against a combination of traditional rivals and Cantonese table-toppers, Shenhua must go into this one as clear favorites.  Teda sit on four points from five games played, with last season’s cup winners having a record of 1 win, 3 draws and 5 losses in all competitions so far.

Not only did Teda lose Arie Haan and Yu Dabao (scorer of a cracker in this fixture last year) over the close-season, but they replaced the latter with Darlington flop Akpo Sodje.

Back to matters Shenhua: North Terrace Preview is standing firm against the anti-Tigana bandwagon for the time being. While Shenhua have been less than stellar going forwards, a much-maligned backline has looked increasingly composed over the season, aided in part by Tigana experimenting with a more defensive-mided midfield at times.

…and for Concern

If the fact that Shenhua have only fleetingly looked dynamic going forwards of late is the main on-pitch concern, this is somewhat overshadowed by the speculation and implications regarding this week’s mass exodus of Tigana’s coaching staff.

Not beating Tianjin might mean that Shenhua can effectively write off this season in terms of competing at the right end of the table. Not nipping in the bud any potential knee-jerk managerial sacking or player-power unrest might mean that even the foundations for rebuilding are more rotten than previously thought.

Key Men

Anelka & Griffiths. This would be a perfect opportunity for Shenhua’s big-money strike partnership to build on the flickers shown so far and fill their boots. Having both Anelka and Griffiths make intelligent use of space in advanced positions gives the opposing backline some uncomfortable questions to answer, and creates space for midfielders like Cao, Feng, Bozic and Wang Fei to get forwards.

Anelka & Griffiths are also important because the alternative option up front is Mathieu Manset, whose contribution is neatly summed up as “Salmeron without the goals”.

That translates into “a big fat lad who runs around a lot” in plain English.

The Verdict

While an all-guns-blazing approach isn’t to be expected, this could be a great opportunity for Shenhua’s emerging solidity to develop into more attacking confidence, particularly if there isn’t too much of a personnel change from the Hangzhou game (although Song Boxuan and Dai Lin are very much welcome back, particularly if the latter’s injury has cleared up). North Terrace Preview is boldly predicting a Shenhua victory by a couple of goals.

Watch

Steve hosts the Chinese Football Podcast, having joined the WEF team as correspondent for Shanghai Shenhua, the side he has followed since moving to Shanghai in 2010.

Exiled from the Victorian town-centre idyll of Feethams along with his childhood football team, Steve can now be found enjoying/enduring matchdays on Hongkou’s North Terrace along with the rest of the infamous Shenhua Element Crew.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. swmnguy

    14/04/2012 at 04:47

    Well, that didn’t go so well, did it. 0-1.

    I’m an American, and a football (OK, soccer) neophyte; a baseball fanatic born and bred. I come here once a year on business. Last year I took a chance and saw a match in Xi’an, between then Shaanxi Chanba and Henan Jianye. It was a pretty wild match, and I was hooked. Just the “fish out of water” experience was for me memorable.

    So I was delighted to see this match scheduled for a day I was in Shanghai, with nothing much to do. I was ignorant of the coaching turmoil, though I did find myself wondering where the Shenhua manager was, as the Teda manager was pretty visible.

    I was surprised by the slim turnout. Anelka was clearly the best player on the Shenhua side. Manset didn’t do much of anything, until late in the match when he started coming all the way back on defense; out of necessity more than anything else.

    The Shenhua keeper was vicitimized on the one goal of the match. Otherwise, he made some questionable decisions I thought; not making much of his kicks.

    One thing I noticed was that the Teda striker Sjoerd Ars seems to be missing the final “e” in his surname. As a diver, whinger and cheap-shot artist he’s right up there with the best.

    All in all, I had a great time. I got a jersey, though as a rather fat American I had to settle for last year’s kit (I think) because that’s all they had in the Caucasian XL.

    I’ve bookmarked your page, and whenever I get the chance, I’ll stream the matches (13 hour time difference is awkward), and whenever I’m in China, I won’t miss a chance to see a match. Thanks for your work on this. I’ll be a regular reader.

  2. Steve

    14/04/2012 at 12:08

    That’s the spirit! It’s unfortunate that you managed to catch one of Shenhua’s very worst performances of a bad couple of years — we’re not always quite THIS bad.

    I’m still too angry to talk properly about the shambles last night, actually.

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