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North Terrace Preview: Shanghai Shenhua v Guizhou Renhe

‘s fan’s-eye Shenhua preview returns at an awkward time for the Hongkou side, as the boys in blue sit in a shambolic state ahead of the visit of an in-form Guizhou Renhe.

Last Time Out

While Guizhou continued their run of form and charge up the table with a strong 3-0 home win over a falterning Guanzhou R&F side, Shenhua’s goal-less travails continued with a 1-0 defeat at Henan Jianye.

While there’s no masking this as another disappointing result in a desperately poor run of form, Shenhua did show some signs of life and forward movement in the game, and might consider themselves a little unlucky that some sharp forward play resulted in no more reward than a terribly-fluffed chance and the underside of the crossbar.

Causes for Optimism…

Erm… anyone have any ideas for filling this space? One of football’s beauties lies in its glorious unpredictability, and perhaps the players will feel they have something to prove in front of their Dear Leader in the director’s box and the latest conveyor-belt manager poised to take over?

… and for Concern

7 goals from 11 games. No home goals at Hongkou for over two months. Still, it could be worse… it’s not as if Griffiths is still out injured and Anelka will be doing his strolling around in the director’s box rather than centre-circle due to a suspension, is it? Oh.

Shenhua followers can at least rest assured that, in the absence of any senior forwards, their season ticket will at least give them the consolation of an hour-long live comedy performance from hurly-burlesque’s Mathieu Manset.

Anelka’s absence means that he can focus on just one of his bargain-of-the-century “two jobs for the price of one” — that’s right kids, for 200 grand sterling a week you too could have both a lazy has-been player ambling around the centre-circle to pick up the ball from players he doesn’t trust to do anything with it, and ALSO an unqualified coach with neither any form of experience nor a language in common with his squad. Grab YOUR Nic Anelka while stocks last.

North Terrace Preview is trying to avoid adding the latest lengthy chapter to the “is the problem Shenhua’s management or Anelka?” debate — in short, nobody is coming out of this mess looking particularly clever. What can be said is that Shenhua retain the core of a very able young squad for this level — but it’s a squad which has been hit by a number of short-termist changes of coach and ill-considered foreign recruits, leaving a side palpably short of both on-field leadership and any kind of strategy or vision for how the side intends to create or score goals.

Shorn of motivation and tactics, this could be a long and drawn-out season for the youngsters, and one in which salvation might not come easily.

Watch Out For

Guizhou will presumably come out of the blocks scenting blood — this game will provide a stern test for the improved 2012 versions of both Wang Dalei and Dai Lin, who will be crucial if Shenhua are to get anything out of this Sunday’s fixture.

The Verdict

It’s very difficult to see anything other than an away win here, and hard to see what Shenhua can create from open play with a midfield low on confidence and forward line low on, well, footballers. If they can keep it tight and nick one from their rediscovered set-piece ability, a draw isn’t out of the question for Shenhua — North Terrace Preview is glumly expecting a 2-0 home defeat, and those relegation worries to loom over the upcoming transfer window and break.

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 spent many an (un)happy year on Hongkou's North Terrace along with the Shenhua Element Crew and Blue Devils before relocating to Sydney from where he continues to follow the Chinese game from afar.

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