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
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015