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Pub Talk: Shandong v Sainty the match to watch

In this week’s Pub Talk, the head-honchos take aim at certain sections of the media over the ACL, another Yangtze Delta Derby is previewed, and Shanghai Shenhua’s stuttering form is examined along with Nicolas Anelka. Bcheng has time to look forward to not going to Dalian this weekend, whilst Shanghai Ultra prepares for another away trip. Meanwhile it appears glory hunting Guoan followers abandon the Jing-jin derby for basketball, whilst China’s former no 1 football city Dalian is called into question… and in some shocking revelations, off-pitch shenanigans appear yet again, but the names are withheld to protect the guilty.

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): So B, I believe you saw something in the China Daily this week about Chinese Super League teams’ performance in the ACL?

Bcheng (Beijing Guoan): There was “disappointment” in the “embarassing” performances. I think that’s a little harsh, it was an all Chinese Super League vs. J-League round and while Tianjin was blown out on Tuesday, anyone watching the two matches last night would probably agree the Chinese sides were the better teams.

S: Embarassing? Because the Chinese Super League teams didn’t win? That’s bollocks  from the China Daily as usual.

B: Yeah, but expectations are never high for them.

S: Beijing drew at home to Tokyo FC, Guangzhou drew away to Kashiwa Reysol, the J-League champions, and Tianjin got beat 3-0 at home by Nagoya. “Embarassment” ? Hello? What the fuck is that?

B: Yeah, and as I said, I think most would agree that the Chinese teams were the better sides in both of those draws. It was a good night of ACL action last night.

S: Pity some of the Chinese media can’t wait to berate its own teams, simply for not winning.

B: Do you expect positive reporting on Chinese football from the media?

S: No, I expect nothing different, since they aren’t allowed to criticize much else.

B: Is this rant on the Chinese media an attempt to avoid discussing last week’s debacle, on and off the pitch, in Shanghai?

S: Haha. Well the off-pitch debacle was more interesting than the match itself, and certain contributors once again found themselves in a state of considerable inebriation after the game.

B: Isn’t that what being a football fan’s all about?

S: I think that is most definately so. It’s good to be talking about what happened in the real pub, in Pub Talk. I wont name names, but lets just say there were three contributors in Tan Hotpot after the game, and a lot of hard liqor was consumed. One particular individual had no recollection of the events except to say “I remembered my umbrella, I’m proud to say”.

B: Commendations for that, it can be hard to do even when sober. I’m glad to see the team stayed true to our reputation and made us proud.

S: It certainly did. There are pictures and videos floating around, showing one contributor leaning on an unconscious lanmo, whilst beer was being poured over his head. Of course, I was just a spectator during these events and managed to stay reasonably sober so I could accurately report said events for the amusement of Pub Talk readers. And the fact that one individual spent the night sleeping in the restaurant, he was simply too drunk to leave by himself and too big to be carried out.

B: Nice Nothing you want to add about what happened on the  pitch?

S: Not really. Both teams cancelled each other out. Tigana obviously hasn’t worked out what his best team is yet. Shenhua aren’t doing any better than they were this time last year. It’s still early days. but the team is top-heavy and still lacking a midfield hardman. I’m not sure Bozic fits that bill.

B: He’s looking like a poor man’s Darko or Antar, not what you guys were expecting. Weren’t Shenhua flying pretty high at this time last year?

S: Yeah that’s what I was thinking. I just checked, Shenhua were 7th after four games, and were 3rd up until the half way point of the season. So the big investment has yet to pay any dividends whatsoever.

B: And only one goal so far for Anelka, he’s gonna have to get hot fast for his brother’s prediction that he’d break 20 to come true…

S: I know I didn’t exactly predict this, but Shenhua’s start is quite predictable really, if you will indulge me for a second. I took an optimistic view that Shenhua would be title challengers… but on this form so far, things just aren’t happening. It’s not that they have played particularly badly. It’s just that there is simply no improvement over last year.

B: Right, which is kind of what I expected. Granted, they brought in Anelka, but I didn’t see any substantial roster improvements. Then again, the pieces might be there, but when you’re keeping Feng Renliang and Cao Yunding on the bench, it’s pretty shocking.

S: It is. I haven’t seen enough of the new Chinese signings, Zheng Kaimu and Wang Fei, to suggest they are better than Feng or Cao. Actually I’d go so far to say the source of the problem is Anelka – Tigana hasn’t worked out where exactly to play him, last week he was basically taking up Cao’s position in attacking midfield. I think its just plain wrong to leave someone of Cao’s creative ability on the bench, I could understand it once against Fuli, but then leaving him on the bench again, even when he won the match for Shenhua the week before, doesn’t make sense. It’s the Hongkou fengshui. No matter who the manager is, they always play guys out of position or leave them out altogether.

B: Is the Anelka problem Tigana playing him out of position or do you think he’s dissatisfied wit the service and roaming further and further back?

S: Well I remember Anelka saying in his CCTV 5 interview, that he most enjoyed playing at Liverpool because he played in the second striker role, instead of right up front. In a team like Shenhua, it makes sense to play him a bit deeper as he can do more damage from further back in the lower standard Chinese Super League. This is the role he has played most of the time so far, but in the last game, he was playing in midfield for much of the match, that’s far too deep I think.

B: Unfortunately in Beijing, the loss of Judas has led to our own strike force woes, though we managed to score three on Tianjin.

S: Yeah how was the derby atmosphere? The crowd was a lot smaller than against Shenhua.

B: Well, ten thousand or so less, but still a very large, vocal crowd. It was a great night, capped off by the Beijing basketball team winning the championship within minutes of the final whiste at Worker’s Stadium.

S: So there were 10,000 glory-hunters watching the basketball instead?

B: Yeah, that was probably the case. They missed a great match.

S: Tossers.

B: So what do you think about the weekend ahead? Looking at the schedule, your side has one of the more interesting of all the matches.

S: Yeah its another Yangtze Delta Derby, Shenhua have a very poor record against the upstarts from down the road, and there’s little to suggest it won’t continue this weekend.

B: Well, hopefully the referee will keep a more watchful eye on Greentown’s goal line, they’ve gotten lucky over the last two weeks with goals that have gone in but weren’t given.

S: Yes, how fortunate indeed. What about Beijing’s chances this weekend then?

B: Away at Dalian and I’m not going, should mean the team has a decent shot, especially with Shide really struggling right now. I’m thinking Guoan will sneak a much needed road win.

S: Shide are looking pretty shabby so far, a bit like their city rivals. Could we see Dalian Derbies in the China League next year?

B: Both teams are definitely struggling, but I don’t expect that to be the case. The Aerbin managerial change came as a shock, I’m not sure if the new guy is going to do much better.
Any other matches you have your eye on?

S: I think Shandong v Sainty is the standout game this weekend, Sainty have really carried over their form from last year. Exciting times in Nanjing.

B: Yeah, you read my mind. Jiangsu’s been impressive so far, I’m interested in seeing how they do against a somewhat struggling Shandong side.

S: Yeah this is the kind of game which could have a big say on the championship race. I think Jiangsu are looking like a good outside bet for the championship. Dare I say that?

B: Well, it’s early days, but I think they are a good underdog bet. It’s a side that has really come together. That’s about it for the “standout” games this week, it’s mostly teams that are doing well against sides who are struggling.

S: That’s right. So lets change track a bit, seems your lot have been busy in the transfer market with Senor Alonso?

B: Haha, you get very high marks for April Fool’s tomfoolery with that one.

S: Hehe. Tomfoolery is the order of the day on April 1. And in Pub Talk, don’t you agree?

B: Most definitely. On that note, is it time to close down the pub for the day?

S: I think its about that time. Any closing remarks?

B: I hope your bladder survives another tough weekend.

S: Yes I’m making my way lakeside for another away trip. That means I’ve yet to miss a Shenhua match all season.

B: Good on you, I’m a bad luck talismann for my team, so I’m not making the trip, we’ll recreate Dalian in Beijing, without the nice seaside air. Cheers mate, enjoy the trip!

S: Cheers mate. Until next week.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.



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