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Less is more: Hangzhou Greentown half-season review

Following a managerial change, Hangzhou’s ‘youth revolution’ has produced mixed results for the club, as the side faded away after a bright start. With the club only 5 points off the relegation zone and winless in May, the summer break has come at an opportune moment for Greentown…

The story so far

After manager Okada’s resignation at the start of the season, many tipped Hangzhou for the drop. But the promotion of youth manager Yang Ji has enabled the side to blood a whole new generation of youngsters, with the side currently sitting midtable in the CSL. Owner Song Weiping’s dictat that the club must play 5/6 youth players every game has met with some success, but a lack of experienced heads has cost the team at times this season.

Key match

Shanghai Shenhua 1 Hangzhou Greentown 3 saw a fantastic away performance by Hangzhou, hitting Shanghai time and time again on the break and once again winning the Yangtze River derby at Hongkou.  Macena, Song and Angan played with a fluidity rarely seen by recent Hangzhou sides and it was easily the side’s most impressive performance this season.

Stars

Goalkeeper Gu Chao has had a good season between the sticks for Greentown, and has been deservedly called up to the national squad for the first time this summer. Brazilian summer signing Ramon has hit his stride in the league, scoring 7 times and settling into the first team. Captain Wang Song has been a creative tour de force, leading the assists count and chipping in with useful goals.  Honourable mentions must go to youngsters Feng Gang, Xie Pengfei and Shi Ke, all putting in solid performances over the course of the season

Flops

Wu Wei returned to the club this summer and has barely played, featuring in the 4-1 home defeat against Evergrande and looking woefully out of his depth. A puzzling signing, particularly in light of the club’s current youth policy

Must improve

Defensively, Hangzhou have struggled all season and boast the worst defensive record in the league, conceding on average over two goals a game.  In a trio of games with Guo’an, Fuli and Evergrande, Hangzhou conceded 14 times.  Set pieces have been a problem and the young side’s lack of experience has contributed to them conceding some poor goals.  Late goals against the likes of Liaoning and Henan have lost the side valuable points against rivals.

Wildcard

Will Greentown’s youth players prove to be the team’s ace up its sleeve, or its downfall as the season goes on? With the side likely to be facing another relegation scrap as the second half the season gets underway, the lack of experience cold prove to be the side’s Achilles heel. Or equally this fearless group of youngsters could drag the side into the comfort of midtable and set a fantastic foundation for next season. Who knows?

Outlook

The team currently sits 5 points off the relegation zone in midtable; fading away in the last few months after a bright start as injuries and international call us took their toll on a thin squad.  Manager Yang Ji deserves praise, however for taking a new side to roughly the same place in the league as his hugely experienced predecessor Takeshi Okada.  The hard work starts now for Greentown though, with the side sliding into yet another relegation dogfight and survival in the CSL will once again be the side’s prime target going into the second half of the season.

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