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Stanojevic: Guoan can compete for the CSL title

In lieu of a preview of today’s matches, we’re featuring our translation of an interview between the Guangzhou paper Soccer News and Guoan manager Aleksandar Stanojevic. The manager talks about a number of different subjects and it appears he’s more than ready for tonight’s face-off against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. With Sanfrecce having lost at home in round 1, they will be desperate to get points tonight, while Guoan have to take this opportunity to grab all three points and move themselves up the table. If they can play with the same energy and passion as Jiangsu did last night, things should work out for the best. With police said to be out in full force tonight, if you’re going to the match (kick-off is 19:30, China time), be sure to get to Worker’s Stadium early.

Soccer News: You’re already two matches into the new season, a win and a draw, and we can already see some changes to Beijing Guoan’s style over these matches, what is the biggest change you’ve implemented?

Aleksandar Stanojevic: I don’t want to compare with the past, I’ve just structured the team based on my thinking and style. It doesn’t matter if in offense or defense, there have been some changes, and so far, they seem to be working.

Soccer News: So far, it appears Guoan’s defense has been solid, but the offensive strategy seems unclear, can you tell us more about it?

Stanojevic: We’re mainly looking to improve the efficiency of the attack and score more goals, create more chances. I will make sure the side focuses on going forward and making more dangerous passes. When talking about individuals, obviously the emphasis will be on the attacking players, but I want the entire team, even the defenders, to get involved in the attack when possible.

Soccer News: Looking at the past two matches, you’ve had a lot of firsts, your first ACL match, your first match coaching at Worker’s Stadium, were you feeling nerves at all?

Stanojevic: The first match is always hard for a new manager and new players, because it is the first for everyone, but more than anything I felt pressure, not nerves. It’s the same for the home match, there was a lot of pressure, but not so much nerves, it was more looking forward to the match. Before the match at Gongti, I wasn’t nervous at all, I was completely focused on preparing for the match, but when I walked into the stadium and saw all the fans cheering, it was special.

Soccer News: Last season you managed Dalian Aerbin at Gongti, this year you are managing the home side, how different does it feel?

Stanojevic:To take charge of one of the sides with the most fans in Asia is something I’m very proud of.

I prefer playing with two strikers

Soccer News: Will you be playing Freddie Kanoute as a striker or will he slot behind the striker?

Stanojevic: Since the beginning, I’ve hoped he would play further up, more in the penalty box, the closer to goal the better. He’s a very talented striker, I hope he’ll have a better season than last year. Yet when taking his age into consideration, I think he’ll naturally move into the attacking mid position, but I do hope that he’ll be able be used as a striker and score even more goals than last year.

Soccer News: For the past two seasons, Guoan has played a 4231. We’ve seen you use two strikers this season, will you be using a 442 more often?

Stanojevic: Well, this isn’t always up to the manager. It is equally important to see what is best considering the players you have. Generally I prefer to play with two strikers, but depending on the opposition, it’s possible we may play a 442, 4231, or a 433.

Soccer News: New foreign player Andre Lima played as a substitute in the last match, what do you think of his current situation?

Stanojevic: He hasn’t been here for a very long time and hasn’t had much chance to gel with the rest of the side. He’s strong in front of goal, but he has yet to play at the best of his ability as he’s still rehabbing. I believe he’s a very talented striker and with him it gives us an additional, different option at striker.

Soccer News: In the past two matches, Piao Cheng played as a defensive midfielder and did well, if there was one piece of advice you’d give him, what would it be?

Stanojevic: I think the one piece of advice I’d have for him is that he needs to play based on who the opponent is, whether he should be sitting back or pushing forward more. He’s definitely an attack minded player, so sometimes he needs to go even farther up the pitch, closer to the opponent’s goal.

Soccer News: Guoan’s defensive line is fairly old, is this reason for concern in 2013?

Stanojevic: I’ve never thought that defense is only the responsibility of our back four, if the strikers and midfielders are in position and don’t lose the ball in dangerous positions, than I think our defense will be fine.

Soccer News: You are sure there’s no reason to worry?

Stanojevic: In my eyes, age is simply not an issue. I think the defenders on my side are great, I will base my defensive structure on the opponent, if they play well, if the coaches prepare them well, then there will be no problem.

Soccer News: You were looking to add to the defense in the off-season, but in the end it didn’t seem like you found a good candidate.

Stanojevic: The situation at wing back is pretty tight, but there are ways to make up for it, like playing Lei Tenglong out wide.

“I’m willing to take the risk of attacking”

Soccer News: I’ve wanted to talk to you for awhile about what your philosophy and ideas regarding football are.

Stanojevic: There are mainly two points, first I want to make sure that every team member knows what he needs to do in his position, the importance of positioning. The other point is to play attacking football, creating opportunities for goals as much as possible, of course there’s a chance of not scoring, but in any case, my offensive philosophy won’t change.

Soccer News: It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, you’ll always play offensively?

Stanojevic: Yes, it doesn’t matter. It’s possible I’d use seven strikers, but then not get the ball across midfield, it’s possible, but I would still stick with my strategy.

Soccer News: Isn’t this dangerous?

Stanojevic: Life is full of all different kind of risks, I’m willing to bear this risk.

Soccer News: Do you pay attention to European football? Who is your favorite manager?

Stanojevic: If I had to pick one, it would be Jose Mourinho, because he represents modern football.

Soccer News: What about a favorite side, is it Real Madrid?

Stanojevic: That’s a tough question, Real Madrid’s preparations and match experience is great, but I think more people prefer Barcelona. Also there is Dortmund, who’ve been a very hot side lately. Personally, I like Real Madrid’s style the best.

Soccer News: It seems there is rarely any talk of your personal life, do you try to avoid this topic?

Stanojevic: I live a very monotonous, very stable life. Football is everything in it, I don’t have time for much else, I can only look forward to a long vacation to get to the seaside and relax. My wife and I have adapted well to life in Beijing, this is an easy city to adjust to.

“When facing Aerbin, “we must win”

Soccer News: Having experienced one ACL match, what do you think of the tempo of those matches?

Stanojevic: Honestly, I don’t have a strong understanding of the ACL, we’ve only had the one match in Korea, so I can’t really speak to the ACL overall. I can only say that against Pohang Steelers, the tempo was definitely a little faster than a CSL match. Whether Guoan can get out of the group stage, I don’t want to think too far into the future and give us too much pressure, so what we’ll do is just play match by match.

Soccer News: How much do you know about the next opponent, Sanfrecce Hiroshima?

Stanojevic: When talking about information, I know every detail about them, because no matter if it’s Hiroshima or Bunyodkor, I’ve watched videos of four or five of their matches. But this is only knowledge on paper, to know how they’ll actually play, we have to get them on the pitch.

Soccer News: This year competition in the CSL is particularly fierce, do you see Guoan with a chance to win the title?

Stanojevic: Of course. I will definitely have Guoan in the title race, if I didn’t think this than I wouldn’t be a serious manager, and I think our team has the capability to achieve this. The CSL has a special attribute, there isn’t much between many of the top clubs, any team can beat any other side, last year was like this, only toward the end of the season was the title picture clear. Stability is crucial, the team that is most stable has the best hope of winning the title.

Soccer News: You brought up stability, Guoan is playing in three different competitions this year, with that in mind, can you guarantee Guoan will be stable?

Stanojevic: We definitely are prepared, I will be sure to rotate in some young players over the older ones, but it will depend on the situation and how I feel the young players are developing at that point, seeing the situation of the match at the time and deciding if they should be involved more.

Soccer News: This is the last question, what will it be like when Dalian Aerbin comes to Worker’s Stadium?

Stanojevic: I have honestly not thought about this yet. I was happy when managing them, but now it’s different and we are opponents. I think it doesn’t matter who comes to Gongti, I want to beat them. Aerbin is a strong team and so I’m sure it will be a great match.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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