Drogba Who? Wild East Football analyses those who have already made an impact on the Chinese Super League before this summer’s influx of football mega stars.
A busy week for the wai yuan! An interesting stat I cooked up this week; 19 goals were scored in the CSL of which 10 came from non Chinese players without the help of already analyzed Zlatan Muslimović or James Chamanga! Beijing Guoan’s reliance on Freddie Kanoute is starting to send them the wrong direction entirely while the Didier Drogba phenomenon continues with a chase after his Mercedes Benz. More internationally, rumors are rife that another Chelsea alumni, Michael Ballack will be on his way to Shanghai Shenhua.
So then to the order of the day, fresh from seeing them batter Beijing, Shandong Luneng are a whole team worth analyzing. Their successes in the CSL and FA Cup matched by very few teams with four of each to their name and a very experienced coach in Henk Ten Cate who has steered them to only one reverse in the last five. Despite recent improvements in results, Shandong are mid-table and only a successful FA Cup campaign is obtainable with a tough two-leg tie with Guizhou Renhe blocking their path and a less than appealing prospect of Guangzhou Evergrande in the final assuming they see off Liaoning Whowin. This Shandong team though is fuelled by an all important engine and although out of action right now, the captain of Lebanon, Roda Antar is the next of the lesser known players to come under the microscope.
Mr. Drogba and co would do well to look at this guy as an example of a passionate player who has ground out a respectable 92 appearances for the ‘Big Scorers’. He started his career in his home country at Tadamon Sour before heading to Germany where he would rack up 173 performances and 36 goals in spells at Hamburg, Freiburg and F.C. Koln. For Lebanon he is somewhat the prolific scorer with 17 goals in his 34 caps to date, a goal in every two games for his country makes him the obvious choice for the captains armband.
Antar then moved to Shandong in early 2009 where he would taste almost immediate success when Shandong took the CSL in the 2010 season. The over six foot tall Lebanese attacking midfielder has 27 goals in 92 games to his name with Shandong in his four seasons with them. Shandong though have had a fair amount of foreign players in their colors who lack this commitment, with Honduras international Julio César de León only turning out 23 times before his departure in 2011 and Brazilian World Cup winner Marcio Santos turning out just once for the club among their alumni.
Roda Antar is not an out and out striker like Chamanga and Muslimović, so what effect did he have on the team’s performance in his first 18 games for Shandong? The 18 games before his arrival were a fairly prosperous time for Shandong indeed before the game right before his arrival was a 5-0 victory in the Asia Champions League over Indonesian outfit Sriwijaya. Those games included nine wins, four draws and five loses with Shandong conceding 21, 1.17 goals per game and scoring a very impressive 35 which was 1.95 goals per game. The percentage of games won was 50%, a huge effort was needed from Antar to make this run any better than it was!
Antar is the prototypical CSL foreigner, a big man in the midfield who can go forward, win headers, and score goals, but is also a strong stopper in the midfield, capable of muscling opponents off the ball and dominating play in the center of the field. It’s why he’s one of the most respected foreigners in the CSL.
Turning out in the orange for the first time on 22nd March 2009, the Lebanon captain started brightly with goals against Guizhou Renhe and Shanghai Shenhua, two goals in his first three games and his first 18 games included a run of five clean sheets! Antar helped them to eight wins, eight draws and just two defeats with the side scoring 21, 1.17 goals a game and conceding 16, 0.89 per game.
Shandong Luneng scored 1.95 goals per game without Roda Antar which would be hard for even Drogba himself to improve on but unfortunately Antar is the first player we have looked at that did not improve the win rate of his team thanks to the superb run of form before his arrival. That said, two loses in 18 games is an impressive feat and the impact of conceding 0.28 goals a game less certainly showed in Shandong’s form!
Next week we take a look at the impact that a defender could make, Nigerian left back Gabriel Melkam has been in Chinese football since 2006 but we look at his most recent stint with Qingdao Jonoon and see if he can better the impact of Zlatan Muslimovic!