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North Terrace News: The Calm Before The Storm?

Shanghai Shenhua continue a run of northern sides ahead of the month-ending battle for local supremacy with East Asia. Next up: Changchun and Dalian Aerbin.

The Week That Was: Comeback of the Comeback

Playing on one of the worst pitches witnessed by mankind (suitable only “for desert football” according to coach Sergio Batista) Shanghai Shenhua came back from 2-0 down at relegation candidates Henan Jianye to secure an unlikely point with goals in the 87th minute and injury time, courtesy of a Xu Liang free-kick special and an ersatz England-at-Euro-2012 moment with Jiang Kun playing Steven Gerrard to Lucas Viatri’s Andy Carroll.

In better long-term news for Shenhua, it emerged that Gao Di’s suspected leg-break against Beijing Guoan was not as serious as feared, and that the Chinese frontman may be back in action within the month.

The Big Issue: Logic? What Logic?

Shanghai Shenhua currently defy any true analysis or footballing canniness — with little discernible width, no clear structure, one legitimate defender and an over-reliance on three South American talismen up front, the side grinds out results where they should not be possible; Henan the latest in a long streak. Whether this speaks for the quality of Shenhua’s individuals, the motivation of Batista’s never-say-die coaching, or a general lack of quality in the CSL remains to be seen.

Shenhua essentially have three (possibly five, depending on the semi-final results) meaningful games remaining this season — the final Shanghai Derby against upstarts East Asia on the 31st, and the two-legged CFA cup semi-final against Jiangsu Sainty in October. Any logical team would use the remainder of the season to evaluate a core side and build for the next season; with Shanghai Shenhua, expect a rollercoaster ride of unnecessarily dramatic and taxing last-minute encounters with a series of mid-table rivals, with no real lessons learned to feed into 2015.

Coming Up: Mid-Table Drama?

Shenhua face up against Changchun Yatai at Hongkou on Thursday night, before traveling to Dalian to face Aerbin on Sunday evening. Changchun are in many ways a similarly unpredictable proposition to Shenhua; bare of resources, supported fervently by a local crowd, they generally struggle but have pulled out some stellar results — this season becoming the first side since money happened to do the double over Guangzhou Evergrande.

Dalian Aerbin also have similarities with Shenhua; their big-money foreign influx has come and gone, and the side now languishes in mid-table propelled by their one or two quality domestic talents. If North Terrace News were in charge of Shenhua, Dalian’s talisman Yu Dabao would be part of a three-man shopping list (along with Sainty’s Sun Ke and East Asia’s Wu Lei) as a cheeky attempt to assert presence in the local transfer market. Aerbin have been a grindingly poor side every time this correspondent has seen them, particularly in the absence of star turn Keita — however, Shenhua’s record in the north-east (let alone outside Shanghai in general) points to minimal returns from yet another away trip.

Predictions & Reality Check

Business as normal — no succession planning or tactical revelations, just a latin-inspired 2-1 win over Changchun to be followed up by yet another away surrender, with Aerbin taking it 0-1. As you were, sir.

Shenhua in 2014 according to North Terrace News:

P 20   W 7   D 2   L 11   GF 19   GA 30   GD -11   Pts 23

Shenhua in 2014 according to the CSL table:

P 20   W 5   D 8   L 7   GF 22   GA 27   GD -5   Pts 23

Steve hosts the Chinese Football Podcast, having joined the WEF team as correspondent for Shanghai Shenhua, the side he has followed since moving to Shanghai in 2010. Exiled from the Victorian town-centre idyll of Feethams along with his childhood football team, Steve spent many an (un)happy year on Hongkou's North Terrace along with the Shenhua Element Crew and Blue Devils before relocating to Sydney from where he continues to follow the Chinese game from afar.

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