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Guangzhou R&F 2012 season review: Jekyll and Hyde

Guangzhou R&F ended their first CSL season in a very creditable seventh place but will still be disappointed to miss out on the ACL as the club were in the third qualifying position after 27 out of the 30 CSL games had been played. R&F had the fourth most prolific attack in the league but coupled this with the second leakiest defence and it was the latter that would cost them in the final stages of the season.

This was R&F’s first full year in Guangzhou as the club moved from Shenzhen in mid-2011 and 2012 was greeted by something of a Brazilian revolution in the Cantonese capital with coach Sergio Farias and players Davi, Rafael Coelho, Jumar and Leonardo all hailing from the land of the samba. Australian Royston Griffiths completed the club’s foreign player quota and had a very solid season in central midfield. As for the Brazilians, Coelho ended the season as the CSL’s third highest scorer and Davi had the second highest assists total but Jumar was injured in a CFA match against Hunan in June and would play no further part in the campaign. He still fared better than his compatriot Leonardo though who was a disastrous signing as he managed only a solitary substitute appearance before departing in the transfer window as his contract wasn’t renewed.

Davi had an electrifying start to the season but his scoring rate dropped after Yakubu’s arrival

R&F got off to a fantastic start to the season with home wins against Beijing and city rivals Guangzhou Evergrande in the first two games and continued the momentum so that after round 12 they were in second place in the CSL. Home ground Yuexiushan was a real fortress as despite a far from intimidating atmosphere due to low supporter numbers, R&F had a 100% home record before their enforced move to the University City Stadium. This masked the fact that dark side of R&F appeared on road trips as they were to take only seven points away from home all year and three of these were in the return leg of the derby against Evergrande so only seven points were gained outside Guangzhou.

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of R&F made the second third of the season very difficult as it included tough away trips to Beijing and Jiangsu. On the plus side it was during this period that Yakubu arrived and completely changed the way R&F played. Less mobile and energetic than Zhang Yuan and Zhang Shuo who had previously filled the lone striker spot, Yakubu quickly became the focal point for R&F attacks with his greater physical presence and would go on to score ten goals in fourteen league and cup games.

Yakubu celebrates one of his 9 CSL goals, the other was in the CFA Cup.

Entering the final third of the season R&F lay in sixth position before working their way back up to third and an ACL spot but then took only one point from their final three games and so slipped to seventh, their lowest position all year but still only 3 points adrift of fourth position which may be good enough for an ACL spot. This point was salvaged by a brilliant last-minute goal against Jiangsu in the final match of the season and for all the great work by Davi, Yakubu and Li Yan (from Hebei) in the build-up, fittingly it was the Cantonese Lu Lin who provided the finish.

Guangzhou R&F 2012

Number

CSL Rank

Wins

13

4th highest

Goals Scored

47

4th highest

Losses

14

2nd highest

Goals Conceded

49

2nd highest

Draws

3

Lowest

R&F players celebrate captain Li Zhe’s last gasp winner against Shanghai Shenxin

As well as narrowing the sharp contrast between the statistics for wins and losses, home and away results and attack (see all the goals here) versus defence, R&F could also have done with a Dr Jekyll to keep their players off the operating table. As Leonardo was signed unfit the club never had five fit foreigners to call on before his departure and in the gap before Yakubu arrived Jumar got injured so that for the rest of the year R&F never had more than four foreigners in the match squad and towards the end of the year only had two, Davi and Yakubu. Centre back Xu Bo was also prone to injury and missed more than a third of the season due to various injuries and suspensions which didn’t help with R&F’s shocking set piece defence. These problems make only narrowly missing out on the ACL in R&F’s first CSL season even more impressive.

Goalkeeper Cheng Yuelei was the only ever present and had a very good season. Brazilian midfielder Davi, captain Li Zhe and CSL All Star and my pick for R&F player of the year right back Tang Miao only missed one game each and were all key to R&F’s successes on the field. In the stands, Yakubu’s arrival gained the club about a hundred African fans and once term started again the University student fan club added their voices which helped the atmosphere inside the University City Stadium.

R&F were ultimately left with nothing to show for a very creditable first CSL season

There are hopes that next season will see a return to Yuexiushan but if it doesn’t R&F need to get more ballboys at University City. There are currently just six for the whole pitch and only four of them have spare balls so any momentum is instantly lost as soon as the ball goes over the advertising hoardings. Other hopes for the next season include seeing more of Dr Jekyll and less of Mr Hyde in R&F’s away performances and a stiffening of the backline. With Yakubu the only confirmed foreign player a new centre back and/or re-signing defensive midfielder Jumar should be priorities. The squad also needs more strength in-depth and this has started as on loan midfielder Li Yan has now signed a permanent deal.

Given the agony and ecstasy which following Guangzhou R&F this season has brought, there were only three draws all year and two of these felt like wins with the equalisers coming very late, it is a hard year to sum up due to the stark contrasts mentioned above. However, this was R&F’s first CSL season and whilst there are problems to fix there are also plenty of positives to build on for the next CSL campaign.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club’s first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Martin Kuroczik

    17/11/2012 at 21:17

    Just a question, gentlemen, the information in the box at the top right hand site is still correct or not with regards to R&F’s home ground? I think thought they have left Yuexuishan stadium a while ago.

    • bcheng

      18/11/2012 at 20:31

      During the 2nd half of the season they played their matches away from Yuexiushan due to it not being up to league standards, but I’m guessing they’d return there next season.

      • Martin Kuroczik

        19/11/2012 at 00:55

        Wow, I really liked the ground, but unfortunately there were not so many people turning up and somehow a move like this would seem like a u-turn since the demographics out there in the University Town were gradually increasing, despite a poorer home form away from Yuexiushan. I always thought the move out there was permanent.

        • bcheng

          19/11/2012 at 09:22

          R&F had one of the league’s lowest attendances (if not the lowest), and I don’t think there was a real turn around at University Town. They only played 5 or so games at Yuexiushan and those were all pre-Yakubu, who made a slight difference in the attendance.

          When one thinks of Cantonese football, Yuexiushan is one of the first things that comes to mind, plus its in a far more convenient location than the University Sports Center. A lot will depend on the renovations the CSL/CFA is demanding, but I believe that the club and most fans would prefer to be back at Yuexiushan.

          • Donald

            19/11/2012 at 16:06

            I’d like to be back at Yuexiushan and the rumours are that a return might be on the cards. It’s a lot more central and the stands give a much better view as well as being covered by a roof which is essential in springtime Guangzhou.Plus its smaller so the fans don’t look so lost inside it. Hopefully the University fans will make the trip across town and I’m pretty certain the Yakubu fans will.

            Just thought, are R&F the only CSL team to win league matches at three different grounds in the same city in the same season (Yuexiushan, University City and Evergrande’s Tianhe)? Any of the Shanghai/Dalian teams managed this before?

          • bcheng

            19/11/2012 at 17:47

            I’d let Cammy come in on this, but I know in 2005 there were three teams in Shanghai and Shenhua were pretty dominant, winning the derby against Inter Shanghai, though not sure if they beat Zobon that year or not.

          • Donald

            21/11/2012 at 10:51

            “Triple Triumph: Guangzhou Evergrande might have won the double but other teams had been there first. Not only did Guangzhou R&F achieve the triple, it was the first triple in the entire history of the CSL. A unique
            and unprecedented feat and one that ensures R&F’s 2012 season will go down in the history books.”

            A fair view?

          • GZBiffo

            21/11/2012 at 19:42

            Hearty congratulations to Itinerant Franchise F.C. for this astonishing triumph.

            I wonder which city they’ll be aiming to achieve this feat in next?

  2. Martin Kuroczik

    17/11/2012 at 21:32

    Interesting article, do you think R&F’s current set-up in attack, where a lot is tailored to suit Yakubu could prove detrimental in the long-run, since it may be too one-dimensional? As a Werder Bremen supporter I enjoyed striker Claudio Pizarro being prolific in front of goal as he was in good form last season but nobody else was stepping up their game under his shadow, the rest of the team was dead-weight, had a bad season or underperformed. And of course, once Pizarro was marked out of the game, or had to fall back to pick up the ball from deep, he was not where he was supposed to be to get on a delivery, in front of goal.

    • Donald

      19/11/2012 at 16:11

      I completely agree with this. Yakubu is certainly a good player but overreliance on him is a problem, especially when he is played as a lone striker. He did look isolated quite a lot last season as the midfield struggled to support him quickly enough. I think either a change of tactics or players is needed next season to stop R&F becoming too predictable.

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