The CSL returned this week after a break for national games, with Evergrande continuing their dominance, and Jiangsu once more showed how vulnerable a team they are.
Ten men against Evergrande is ‘Mission Impossible’
The start of the game between Evergrande and Beijing was fantastic. Some of the best football I have seen in my time in China. The passing quality was to European standard, both teams played offensive football with full backs coming up to attack, and both teams created chances. It was also a very offensive full back scoring the first goal in the same position as he was assisting Yu Dabao the other day for China against Australia.
The red card destroyed the game totally. No one can play with 10 against 11 men on the highest level today. The players are too good, the game is too structured and the tempo is too high. Remember that on the training ground, we often play 4:2, 6:4 or 8:6 to create success for the team having the ball and training for the offensive part of the game. Evergrande had a man advantage for almost 75 % of the match, so basically it was like an offensive training exercise for Lippi’s team.
Before the red card, I found the Evergrande’s pressuring style interesting to analyze. When we look at the details in the area called pressuring; there are two main areas; pressure to win the ball or pressure to make the opponents play the ball backwards / defend your own goal. The difference is the way your players are acting. Are they aggressive on the man wanting to win the ball or are they focused on their respective zones, which means they are more focused on not letting the ball pass forward rather than actually wanting to win the ball.
Evergrande clearly knew that Beijing has some fast and dangerous offensive players, so they chose to stay in their zones and try to force the Beijing players to play faster than they are able to, to stress them into picking the wrong solution rather than taking a risk and going for the ball themselves. This is a typically Italian way of pressuring.
The main problem for Beijing when they were down to 10 men was the lack of defensive support from their central midfield players. Suddenly Evergrande had a clear majority in the central midfield, because number 10 Zhang Xizhe was substituted to make way for the new keeper coming on. So Evergrande ‘killed’ the Beijing center area and 15 Conca could turn with the ball and sprint towards the back 4 every time. This is the worst situation for any back 4, because rule number one is to drop back and don’t give space behind, so in most situations the Beijing back 4 would be running backwards into their own box. And against Elkeson and Gao Lin – this will mean trouble.
3-0 was the final score, but with more concentration and better finishing quality, Evergrande could have doubled that final score.
Day and night for Jiangsu
As I have highlighted earlier this season, Jiangsu Sainty’s gameplan is too easy to read, and when the game changes or the opponents changes their style of play, the Jiangsu players don’t know what to d. This has seen the Nanjing side drop to 10th.
Against Shanghai Shenxin, the first half was good for Jiangsu at Yuanshan Stadium in Shanghai. The away team controlled the game with their strict and tight 4-4-2 formation and created several good chances. The plan for Jiangsu in the last third of the pitch was to go for crosses. The wingers like to hit them early, so they caught the opponent defenders out of balance. And of course 10 Danalache and 38 Jevtic are very dangerous in the air. And with the first goal, we even saw 9. Wu Xi with a fine header.
I was very disappointed over Shenxin in the first half. Shenxin played to passive and defensive, which does not fit their players. Shenxin is an offensive team and needs a lot of possession to make a good game, and this point was illustrated clearly in a completely different second half.
The big change was Shenxin number 23 Flavio moving from the right to the left midfield. Maybe some readers will wonder how a switch like that can change a game, but on the right side Flavio was locked in the position, while he can move inside the pitch from the left side and use his preferred right foot. This change destroyed the Jiangsu midfield line. Again and again Flavio found space between the midfield and the back 4 and could start attacking from that position. On the few occasions Jiangsu stopped Flavio, Shenxin would take advantage; Flavio’s move inside created space for full back 11 Jiang Zhipeng to act as a replacement winger.
Regarding my point from earlier on; Jiangsu had no response to the change of game. No change or new style – they just kept playing their 4-4-2 and were lucky not to lose the game in the end. And this is a big issue for Jiangsu – no plan B. You need this in modern football if you want success on the long term.
Another element in the game piqued my interest. I was curious about the fact that the Shenxin goalkeeper kicked long goal kicks towards 19 Kieza every time. The man marker of Kieza was number 3 Eleilson, who won 12 of out 12 duels in the air = 100 %. Why would a coach not prepare the best gameplan or at least during the match not change this, so your team exploits their opponent’s weaknesses, and uses its strengths, and not the other way around? This element was extremely frustrating to look at.
Hangzhou in the danger zone
One team I have been very disappointed about this season is Hangzhou. I think their squad should bring them more points and a better league position even though, we know they have a lot of young players who need time to find a rhythm.
Greentown lost 0-1 to Tianjin on Wednesday, and now they are only 5 points clear from the relegation zone. The teams below; Tianjin, Changchun and Wuhan seem to have found some momentum compared to their performances at the beginning of the season, so the Greentown boys have to step up. I personally have no favorite teams in the CSL, but I honor offensive football and talent development, so I really hope that Hangzhou will stay up, because Chinese football needs them.