Three French coaches hand-picked by Shanghai Shenhua manager Jean Tigana have been spectacularly fired by the club due to player dissatisfaction with their training methods, according to Shanghai media.
Back in January when Tigana became the latest occupant of the Hongkou hot seat, he brought with him a team of three seasoned trainers he had worked closely with in the past – but now just five games into the season, his entire backroom staff have been fired after players complained that the coaching they were receiving was not effective, city newspaper the Oriental Morning Post reported.
Shenhua have made a plodding start to the season, picking up just five points from five games and registering only one victory despite a massive investment in the playing squad and the recruitment of Nicolas Anelka. Displeasure at boardroom level, in the Shanghai media and on the terraces is mounting. Suho.com cartoonist Liu Shouwei drew a caricature of Anelka (see above) which neatly sums up sentiment towards Anelka and Shenhua in general at the moment with the caption “I’m a good gun, but I don’t have bullets – two goals, five games, five points.”
This sorry state of affairs in Shanghai led to first team players revealing their unhappiness with the coaching staff during a team meeting after another the club’s mediocre 1-1 away draw in the derby against Hangzhou on Saturday.
The rolling heads belong to Tigana’s number 2, Baptiste Gentili, fitness coach Roger Propos and goalkeeping coach Marc Lévy. Gentili was formerly on FC Nantes staff, Propos at Nice and Lévy played and coached at Marseille.
The Shanghai media quoted a high-level figure inside Shenhua that a new coaching team will be put in place before the match against Tianjin on Friday night, with Tigana still having an input on the choice, with another French, or possibly British coaching team being touted to replace the outgoing trio.
The sackings mount to an embarrassment for Tigana seeing as he personally selected the individuals involved. The affair also raises some rather unpleasant questions for Shenhua – does Tigana command the respect of the squad if they are behind the ousting of his entire backroom staff? Is the problem that the players are lacking, rather than seasoned European coaches with high-level experience? Is the alleged dissatisfaction coming from only a few influential squad members and not the whole team in general? What is captain Anelka’s role in all of this, if any? Did the Shenhua top brass want to fire Tigana but couldn’t stomach the pay-off clause and went for the half-way house of ditching his staff instead?
These questions may never be answered but what we can say is that the move is a very sudden and hardly the best preparation for a match due to take place just two days later. The Shenhua board have said they still trust Tigana, but the sackings suggest an all-round lack of trust between the coaching staff, players and boardroom which only results on the pitch can rectify.
Despite a sluggish start against admittedly the best teams in the league, its too early for any alarm bells to ring and there is still plenty of time for Shenhua to make ammends. But the results need to come fast and the sackings have added even more pressure on the team as they go into their next game.
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