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Pub Talk: The CSL soap opera that wont stop

Déjà vu in the pub this week as your correspondents find the bizarre events which dominated last week’s chat are still on-going – Shenhua still don’t have a manager and take up the larger part of the discussion. Things go from bad to worse for Shanghai Ultra as he struggles to come up with anything positive to say about matters in Shanghai, as Bcheng manages to contain his laughter somehow. But that’s probably because his side isn’t looking too clever in the ACL, which is also on the agenda this week. Brawling Brazilian’s make the news, as do big-name Euro coaches who aren’t coming to the Chinese Super League, as your hosts struggle to recommend a big match this weekend – its all top v bottom for the most part. That’s what is on offer in Pub Talk, this week, read on if you dare.

B: So Shanghai Ultra, I’m going to start off with my same question from last week, what the f#$*(@ is going on in Shanghai?

S: I……… just don’t know what to say man.

B: Is Anelka officially managing the team? Is Tigana officially gone?

S: I think what is really going on is this:  Tiagana has gone, but not officially resigned as that would influence legal proceedings he is currently involved in over a compensation package. Anelka is caretaker manager until the matter is resolved. But who knows who is actually picking the team, Anelka can’t really have much of a handle on it yet, as a matter of fact, I don’t know if he ever can since he is as much a football manager as I am an acrobat.

B: I’ve heard that since Anelka doesn’t have his coaching badges, he won’t be able to do the official press conferences. Is this the case? What can you tell us about new managerial candidates, rumor is it will be Ikwange Ibenge?

S: I can tell you that I’ve never heard of him.

B: Haha, me neither, just the kind of guy Anelka needs so that he can be in charge.

S: That is what I am afraid of. I’m all for Anelka being made captain, and even an assistant coach. But he can’t be the manager.  I mean.. please! Shenhua needs someone to come in who would be bigger than him. Wu Jingui is the only Chinese coach who could do that since he is popular with a lot of the fans.

B: I don’t think Wu is stupid enough to take the gig.

S: Yes – he said as much in the Chinese media after he admitted he had been contacted. Ibenge’s only credentials for the job, apart from being Anelka’s mate, is that he used to be manager of DR Congo. God save us.

B: At least you’re into an easier part of the schedule, though going to Dalian isn’t easy, especially considering the condition of the pitch, it’s a step down from the level of opponents Shenhua were facing.

S: Dalian is always a hard place to go. And last year not only was the pitch terrible, it was covered with rain for a game of “water ball” if you recall.

B: Yes, I do remember that one, hope rain is not in the forecast this time around.

S: No matter what, its pissing down on Shenhua at the moment. I just don’t know where the club is going to end up. We need a new manager asap and we need someone who can come in and grab the situation by the scruff of the neck.

B: It looks like you’ll just be getting more of the same down there.

S: Yeah I mean. Come on. It’s just a joke. The media is saying Tigana didn’t take any time to prepare for life as a Chinese Super League manager, and I think that’s true. But Shenhua have only themselves to blame, they hired the guy, who I don’t think has a great record, then this mess comes up and they can’t even clarify who is in charge of picking the team for the last game and now this one. You just couldn’t make it up.

B: I don’t know about the argument of “preparing for life as a Chinese Super League manager”. Football is football and I think its the outsider perspective that you’re looking for to begin with, obviously you need some understanding of your own players, but I think a lot of this is a chance for reporters to take parting shots at someone they didn’t warm to and who didn’t do enough to court them.

S: Who knows. But Tigana is a failure, the buck stops with him, simple as that.

B: Haha, what about your underperforming, overly paid striker/midfielder/manager?
I think the media is really giving him a pass.

S: They are. I think he has to come up with the goods soon though, no matter which hat he ends up wearing. In the last game he looked lethargic, but I don’t agree with those who say he cant be arsed and is just here for the pay check. There’s been obvious problems with the team and Anelka is part of that team. I think he will come good.

B: Enough of the Shenhua talk, I shudder to bring it up, but what about the ACL this week? Any thoughts?

S: Guoan were extremely dissapointing, Guangzhou returned to form. Your guys are pretty much out, GZ will be through as I predicted. Tianjin…. meh.

B: Yeah, that really sums it up. Guangzhou looked impressive, well, I should say Muriqui looked impressive, though I wouldn’t be so sure about them going through. Tianjin still has a shot, but I can’t see them going through.

S: That said, Tianjin are doing ok overall considering how average a Chinese Super League team they are.

B: It’s humorous, with only one goal in four matches, they’ve managed to earn three points.

S: Yes it also amuses me. The curiousities of Chinese football are indeed boundless.

B: It just goes to show how lacking Chinese football is, the domestic talent just isn’t up to par. Guangzhou with all their national team players wouldn’t be where they are without their foreign triumverate and even with those three, they’ll have a fight to get out of the group.

S: Can’t disagree. It also shows how far ahead Korea and Japan are. Even the Aussie teams don’t look that clever.

B: Definitely, it’s just Korea and Japan. Though Buriram. Wow! They were involved in a hell of a fight with Jeonbuk, who suddenly seem to have woken up. The next two matches in that group are going to be exciting, I think it all comes down to how Guangzhou do against Jeonbuk at home.

S: That’s going to be exciting indeed.

B: I’m not so sure Guangzhou can win in Thailand, so it’s going to be crucial for them to earn maximum points at home.

S: Thai football is on the way up, looks like they all got bored of wearing fake Man U tops and making an arse of themselves by jumping around like crazy in a pub about a team thousands of miles away that just wants to milk them for cash.

B: Alright, enough of that, what about this weekend’s matches, we touched on Shenhua’s road clash a little already.

S: I think Mr Crook’s preview on Shenhua’s match sums up perfectly what most fans are thinking. I can’t see Shenhua coming away with anything other than a dull draw at best. Who have you got?

B: Guoan are away at Shenyang, should be a decent match though I’m not too optimistic.

S: Things aren’t going that well up north either it seems. What’s the basic story so far?

B: It’s simple, there must be a rule saying the players must leave their skills and brains in Beijing.
The team has yet to lose at home, but it has also failed to win on the road.

S: Hmm. So what about that rumpus with Shenxin and Qingdao?

B: It’s one of the rare moments that idiocy in Chinese football can be blamed on foreigners. Antonio Flavio straight up lost his mind.

S: Hahah that’s a good way of putting it. It looked like a right old carry on. Shenxin must really be regretting moving to the football twilight zone, AKA Shanghai.

B: Not if they’re the only Shanghai team in the Chinese Super League next year.

S: At this rate anything could happen. And we all thought Shenhua’s brief flirtation with relegation was over after last year.

B: Right now you have three of the four teams to have never been relegated sitting at the bottom of the table. Interesting times.

S: Yeah but it is early. I can’t see Shenhua getting relegated. Dalian Shide might. Will be interesting to see our result against them tomorrow.

B: Well, two teams will go down, that’s about all we can say now. I can see Shenhua flirting with relegation all season if the managerial situation isn’t worked out soon.

S: Even if the situation is worked out, the club will flounder without strong leadership. Anyway enough about Shenhua, any other games catching your fancy?

B: Not really, this weekend doesn’t have much in the way of impressive matches. If pressed, I’d say Shandong hosting R&F might be the best bet outside of Liaoning-Beijing. Beyond that, maybe Evergrande against Changchun, could be intriguing.

S: Right. Not to say the league is boring by any means, but its still early, the ACL hasn’t given China much to shout about, so at least the

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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