Having booked their spot in the Chinese Super League for 2013, this season has been a defining coming of age moment for the youthful Shanghai East Asia players and Xu Genbao’s football project itself. Now its time to review the main men in East Asia’s charge to the top table of Chinese football and give regular CSL viewers the chance to familiarise themselves with one of the newly promoted teams.
Manager- Jiang Bingyao (7/10): Jiang has done well this year and made astute mid-game tactical changes that legitimately won several games for his team. However, sometimes he can get too cute- most notably when he opted to start back-up goalkeeper Sun Le in a critical game against Shenzhen Ruby. These are minor drawbacks though- ultimately, the team was promoted under his watch playing good football.
Owner- Xu Genbao (3/10): For all that Xu has done in the long run for Shanghainese football, this season has not be a good one for the East Asia owner personally. Firstly, where else other than China would an owner shoot his own club in the foot by allowing his starting left-back to go on loan (with nothing coming back in return) to a wealthier local rival in the middle of a promotion push? Running across the pitch to applaud a group of Shenhua fans who came to chant Xu’s name at the end of the East Asia-Tianjin Songjiang game was bad enough but where was the gushing acknowledgement of East Asia fans throughout the season? Even when promotion was clinched, Xu was not seen with the players saluting the fans – who travelled around China to support their team this year and even made their own replica kits to wear at games because the club didn’t sell their own. Better showing next year please, Mr Xu.
#1: Yan Junling (6/10): Solid, nothing flashy. Made some good saves but never did anything that would make you remember him- exactly what you need from a starting goal keeper.
#22: Sun Le: (4.5/10): Rarely made an appearance but when he did, it was patchy. Fell apart in the 3-3 draw at home to Shenzhen and had to be substituted before halftime. Redeemed himself later on by saving a penalty away at Chengdu but ultimately seems destined to be a back-up for the remainder of his East Asia career.
#2: Li Yunqui (6.5): Defensively, the right-back did everything expected of him and never seemed to get exposed by opposing wingers. However, he also seemed reluctant to get forward and this was probably the reason he began the season on the bench and only really started games after Bai had been loaned out to Shenhua and the defence needed to be rejigged.
#4 Wang Shenchao (7/10): The captain put in some thankless performances this season and played all across the defence as well as scoring a couple of critical goals along the way. In the CSL, he will probably be too slight to play centerback and may well be moved to the flanks in 2013 where his crossing and willingness to overlap could be very useful.
#18: Sun Kai (5.5/10): It was clear Sun had spent some time as a left midfielder and his bombing runs down the left flank gave opposing defenders nightmares. That said, he looked a little suspect when there was lots of traffic coming through his part of the pitch.
#21 Bai Jiajun (6.5/10): Gone but not forgotten. Was excellent before being loaned out to Shenhua in the second half of the season and his poise and work rate will be much-needed next season. Keeping the left-back at East Asia should be a priority this offseason.
#25 Ransford Addo (7.5/10): A consistent and reliable presence in the middle of the defence, Addo should hopefully still be with the team in 2013. Never seemed to get caught out of position and was a calming influence in tight games. Beloved by fans and would have played every game for East Asia this season had he not been sent off in farcical circumstances against Songjiang.
#33 Bruno Camacho (5.5/10): Brought in with half of the season already played, the Brazilian centerback looked off-the-pace all too-often. He had a very good work rate but his enthusiasm to get stuck in meant he gave away two critical penalties against Fujian and Wuhan.
#5: Wang Jiajia (6/10): Started the season as a centerback but was increasingly used as a defensively midfielder where his ball playing abilities were extremely useful and there were several occasions where Wang started a counter-attack that ended up in a goal for Dongya. Will be a very useful utility player for East Asia next year.
#6: Cai Huikang (5.5/10): Not an especially memorable campaign but the midfielder did his job just as he was told by sitting deep and making tackles whenever they needed to be made. Unlikely to play much next year as he rarely seemed to impose himself on games and East Asia would do well to find a tougher, grittier player to sit between defence and midfield.
#7: Wu Lei (8/10): The unquestioned star of the team, Wu was also arguably the most dynamic in China League One this year. He has fantastic vision, touch and finishing (he scored seventeen goals from midfield) and won games by himself at times during the season. However, he also is an unrepentant diver and his play acting quickly become tiresome and unsettled East Asia’s tempo. That said, several CSL teams will be looking at him this off-season although Xu Genbao knows that this team’s survival in the CSL will rest on the tiny shoulders of the 5″7 playmaker so a transfer seems unlikely.
#8: Zhan Yileng (5.5/10): The attacking midfielder showed some decent touches and but equally seemed happy to defer to other teammates when it came to possession. With so many players in the team being extremely confident on the ball, Zhan effectively become the water carrier for the team, picking up the ball from midfielders further down the pitch before handing it over to the wingers standing close by to him.
#12: Lv Wenjun (8/10): Whilst Wu stole the spotlight, Lv quietly went around putting in a series of game winning performances that helped East Asia get out of jail on more than once this season. Able to play as a winger, a supporting striker or even on occasions in central midfield, Lv was a selfless but hugely important part of the East Asia team and should keep his place in the starting XI next year where he can continue to form an effective one-two combination with Wu.
#13: Zhu Zhengron (6.5/10): As East Asia’s go-to super sub, Zhu was a reliable second option if either Wu or Lv was having an off day. He also scored a handful of valuable goals during the team’s rocky patch midway through the season that helped settle nerves in the dressing room.
#18: Samir Arzu (5/10): Never likely to get much playing time behind Wu, Lv and Zhu, the Honduran was basically a waste of a foreigner spot. Although he was quick, Arzu rarely looked like he was going to do anything in the fleeting moments he did have on the pitch. His work rate and effort will be useful for another CL1 team next season but like Bruno Camacho, Arzu won’t be in Shanghai next season.
#9: Luis Carlos Cabezas (5.5/10): As the single out-and-out striker in the starting XI, Cabezas needed to be better than he was. Timely (but arguably fortunate) goals against promotion rivals Tianjin Songjiang and Harbin Yiteng as well as a fantastic effort against Chengdu have helped mask the Columbian’s limited abilities. Like Wu, the striker has a habit of going to ground far too easily but more worryingly was his indecisiveness infront of goal. There were times this season- most notably in the top of the table clash with Wuhan- where Cabezas would continually send uncontested headers into the keeper’s arms or fire gold-plated goal scoring opportunities wide- he scored seven times this season and it should have been seventeen. Mercifully, he was a loan signing from Dalian Aerbin so East Asia will not have his services next year.
#10 Chen Zijie (5/10): Saw very limited playing time, based largely on the fact that he was not physical enough to lead the line.