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Pub Talk: China need to get the finger out before Australia

This week your pubbers return to the pub to discuss the recent international break. Bcheng is once again in despair at the national team’s faltering progress, if you can call it that. Shanghai Ultra has little enthusiasm either, but defends China’s coach for now. Bcheng reveals his solution. Avoiding embarrassment seems to be the name of the game. Elsewhere the end is in sight for this year’s CSL – what gives at the top and bottom? Your experts muse the possibilities. An exciting fixture card excites both drinkers, particularly at the bottom – of the league that is, not their pint glasses. Although clarity may be more likely to be found there on Chinese football matters. Finally, what’s going on in Dalian? The boys discuss the latest calamities in Football city. That’s it for now, as always please do join in the discussion in the comments section. Cheers!

B: Back in the pub after a few weeks off, fortunately the league was on vacation too due to this horrible national team break.

S: Yeah it seems the league only takes place when there’s nothing else better going on, like the World Cup, international friendlies, pop concerts, the ACL, Foreign heads of state in town, “large scale events” and practising your swing.

B: This is always the most hated break, not so much in China, but definitely in Europe, where it takes place just after those season starts.

S: Yeah I am not opposed to breaks for international games, I just can’t quite understand why the fixtures seem to be played so sporadically this year. I know there was a World Cup and all, but still just seems very odd.

B: In any case, China had two matches during the break, I can honestly say I’m going to trash the manager but didn’t watch more than 5 minutes combined.

B: I’m about ready to give up on China, that’s how bad things are.

S: I have to confess my attentions were focused elsewhere…but the results were not so bad were they? A win and a draw, albeit against mediocre opposition.

B: Both sides were very average Asian sides that should have presented decent challenges but China should have beaten them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Perrin’s management really leads one to wonder what to expect, I don’t think he’ll make it past the Asian Cup. There was a little too much experimenting going on.

S: I’m a bit confused – China beat Kuwait 3-1 right? I saw the highlights, it looked like a good performance, again it was Kuwait though.

B: They beat Kuwait, the Jordan draw was disappointing (and the goal came from a penalty). There were a number of players included who shouldn’t be in the national team side in Australia, I just hope Perrin realizes that.

S: Which players is he used who you think he shouldn’t take?

B: There are a number of complaints, but especially gotta wonder about the inclusions of Mei Fang, Zhang Jiaqi, Piao Cheng, Cai Huikang, and Zhao Xuri.

B: There are a few of these guys who aren’t even the first choice at their own clubs. I can see bringing in Piao to see what he can do, but he was one of three players who didn’t make it on the pitch in either match.

S: Do you think Perrin will be able to tempt Piao away from Mix club?

B: Well, if he brings him into the national team and then ignores him, that isn’t going to help. Of the other 2 guys who didn’t make it, one had a fever, the other was the third string keeper. Disappointing…

S: I’m surprised how hostile you are toward Perrin. His resources are very limited it has to be said. Although I’m glad Wu Lei is a regular now.

B: I think you’re being way to soft on him, his resources aren’t that limited. As I said, if this was an experimental roster, fine, though it seems odd to do so with only a few matches before such an important competition. My article is going up on this today, but why choose Zhao Xuri, who is far below in the depth chart, over Huang Bowen. Or Piao Cheng over Zhang Xizhe. Or Zhang Jiaqi over Yu Dabao.The mind fairly boggles…

S: I think it’s still early days. He’s definitely making odd choices, but that is nothing different from what went before. I think most of the players he has at his disposal just aren’t good enough. If they were they’d be playing abroad, Zhang Linpeng and Wu Lei are the only ones up to that standard as far as I can see.

B: I don’t think that’s true at all. They aren’t good enough to win the Asian Cup, we can agree on that, but to do well in the group they have in Australia, they definitely have the talent.

S: Yeah I totally agree with that. And if they had a boss who could get the best out of them, who knows how far they could go. I just think the player talent pool is limited, I used to think it was more psychological reasons for their continual failure before, and I still think that’s a big part of it. But I think there is no magic bullet, for China to be on the same level as Asia’s top teams and be a regular World Cup qualifier, they simply will need a better squad than they have now. I’m looking at the wider perspective when I talk about their ability. But for sure they should be able to beat Jordan at home, few would disagree with you there. But do bear in mind Jordan had a very good run in the Asia WC qualifying section.

B: At the end of the day, the Camacho era has seen the national team slide backwards and Perrin is only continuing that because he isn’t the right guy for the job. Big picture is great, but my focus is on Australia in less than four months and not having another embarrassing tournament. China used to be just below Korea and Japan, now there is probably another tier between them and those sides, it’s not good.

S: Definitely. The focus has to be on Australia and doing everything that can be done to make sure China makes a respectable showing. Getting past the group stage would suffice I believe. Will be interesting to see what happens in the remaining frendlies, since the big tourney isn’t that far off at all. What would you like to see being done?

B: I’d like to see the lineup that he likely intends on using in Australia get the majority of the playing time. I can understand needing time to make a decision at keeper and a few other positions, but I would like to see a little more consistency when things break again in a month. I’d also like to see him go back to the likes of Yu Dabao and Zhang Xizhe in the team.

S: Yeah I am puzzled by their absence, seems its experimentation.

B: He made six changes to the lineup after the first match, that’s all well and good, but I’d like to see these guys starting to get a chance to play together and build up teamwork before the competition. Anyways….this is a very depressing subject, time to move on?

S: Yeah, at least we have gotten it out of the way. So we’ve been a bit sporadic in the pub of late, a lot has happened since our last drink, what’s what in the world of what?

B: Well, the last round saw things say as is at the top of the table, but the bottom of the table is starting to pan out a little bit, looks like we have 5 sides competing to avoid the drop spots.

S: Yeah, I think Harbin have a game in hand against Sainty, if they win that they will be just one point behind Liaoning and only two points will separate the bottom four. So we’re looking at Harbin, Liaoning, Henan or Aerbin to go down. The teams above that are safe I think.

B: Yes, Harbin have that game in hand, a scary prospect in the CSL. I think its hard to completely discount Shenxin as they’re only five points above the drop (and I know you’d love to see them go down).

S: Shenxin are like a dangleberry, no matter how much you shake it just won’t drop. I don’t hate Shenxin, I just want to see other parts of China given the chance to see CSL football, that’s in everyone’s interest, Shenxin are better off in CL1 as somewhere for up and coming players to test themselves.

B: I think this weekend we’re going to see if they can stay up or not. The temperature is starting to drop up here in Beijing, but this is an unbelievably hot footie weekend in the CSL. At the top of the table you have two exciting games as Evergrande travel to East Asia and Jiangsu host Beijing. At the bottom some real six pointers as well, with Harbin taking on Henan and the aforementioned Shenxin going up to Liaoning.

S: Yeah no complaints about the fixture card this weekend. Evergrande v East Asia I think is the clash to watch. We’re getting into the business end of the season, I’m keen to see if East Asia can handle the pressure.

B: East Asia are having a fabulous season and are in the hunt for an ACL spot, but despite playing Evergrande tough last year, they were embarrassed 5-0 at Tianhe earlier this season. They’ve struggled against the top sides this season, this is a chance to really prove they are a serious side.

S: It is. And both times they failed to play to their potential against Shenhua in the derbies, Wu Lei in particular was dissapointing. That’s why I’m keen to see how they do in their biggest test yet.

B: Of course I have my own motives in this one, even a draw would go a long way in helping us up north.

S: That isn’t beyond East Asia, and I don’t think anyone would be upset to see them beat Evergrande. Except the obvious. But the bottom of the table – that’s quite a line-up as you say.

B: Yeah, and in both matches the lower side is at home. As I said, a Shenxin loss and they’re right back in the mix. As for Harbin, they are running out of chances, a win is an absolute must.

S: Yeah, it’s lights out for Harbin if they can’t nail three points. What an exciting weekend for the relegation battle. I wonder what it would have been like a few years back when there was no relegation for a couple of years when they were reforming the league? Luckily things at the top were more variable then.

B: As of right now, we still have actual competition for the league, the ACL spots, and relegation, let’s just hope it stays that way and we’re treated to a great end of the year.

S: Yeah at least two of those battles may well go down to the wire.

B: To that end, we talked a little about Evergrande’s test this weekend, Guoan doesn’t have an easy one themselves.

S: Reckon you can beat Sainty?

B: I think they can, Sainty’s lost two in a row, both against bottom clubs, with a combined score of 1-6, but they tend to get up for Guoan, and even though it’s in Zhenjiang, their match against Shenxin was well attended, it’s a hell of a test, but if Guoan wants the league, this is a must win.

S: Sainty are back playing at a level not too far away from where they were at two seasons ago. But having to play home games in another city is a real handicap. Again we see where the CSL fits in with the scheme of things, making way for all manner of obscure events to take place at CSL club home grounds.

B: I think that’s a little harsh…These Youth Olympics are a big deal, at least in China, and Sainty are only playing two games away from Nanjing, so it’s not as bad as some previous incidents.

S: True but there’s a ton of stadiums all over China which sit empty most of the time, I refuse to believe things couldn’t be scheduled better to keep everyone happy.

B: This year is a tough year with scheduling as it is. Anyways, I also disagree Jiangsu is back to where they were two years ago, this is a thoroughly crappy Jiangsu side that is only as high as they are in the table because there are sides that are even more crappy. They beat the sides that are worse than them and that’s about it, as I said, lately they haven’t even been dong that, losing to Hangzhou and Shenxin by a combined 1-6.

S: The table is pretty tight there true enough. You’ll find out more about Sainty’s progress or lackof this weekend for sure.

B: Yeah, I’m hopeful for a win in this one, Guoan’s road form has improved a lot this year, but when they go on the road, there’s always nervousness involved.

S: I think it will be a good game to watch, pressure is on your lot, if you get beat, I’ll not entertain any more conversations about Evergrande possibly not winning the league!

B: If Evergrande walk away with three points in Shanghai, that is.

S: I’m sure you’ll be hoping they suffer a similar fate in Xujiahui as Guoan did earlier this season. In fact so am I being honest, strictly to keep the league open and exciting, you understand…

B: Of course, of course….I’d even take a draw (that is presuming Guoan win at Sainty), Evergrande still have a very difficult schedule and this is one of those matches that I’m not expecting anything, but where it’s not impossible to see Guangzhou dropping points.

S: The title race candle is flickering, but not much wick left to burn. So how about this Aerbin situation? Seems like another unfortunate episode.

B: I think it’s no surprise the team is struggling financially, they put a giant for sale sign on pretty much every player except Yu Dabao this summer and have been struggling for awhile. I just hope they can make it through the season before things really fall apart.

S: It’s a shame to see what’s happened to Dalian football in the past few years, it really is.

B: But we’ve seen this so many times before, a club tries to jump up the table by spending big in the transfer market and can’t keep pace. When you pay almost RMB85 million (almost US$14 million) on three players alone, you better be turning out money in other ways. That’s not even mentioning the RMB3.2 billion they spent on Shide.

S: Indeed. That’s an awful lot of money.

B: It would be too bad if they die because they tried, were forced, or whatever to save the other Dalian side, but I can’t see it getting to that point.

S: I am optimistic some solution will be found. Moving the club to Nanjing certainly isn’t it however, and I applaud the Dalian FA for knocking that idea on the head.

B: Dalian is one of the more well off cities in China, but it’s going to be hard to find a suitor there, however I think the club has some options, it’s going to take some time. I think we have to be open to the fact there may not be a club in Dalian come the start of the 2015 season, though.

S: That would be a great shame to say the least. But of course it’s a distinct possibility. Certainly though I’d love to see Dalian Transcendence come up through the leagues, they are the spiritual sucessor of Shide and now followed by the Blue Wave, in time they could eclipse Aerbin even if they survive.

B: That’s wishful thinking. It would be too bad to see yet another side move, but Aerbin is a club that’s in only it’s fifth year of existence, these things happen. In a lot of ways it feels like Inter Shanghai all over again, except without the success.

S: Wishful thinking is what keeps most fans going I think. But the story indeed has many parallels elsewhere in China unfortunately.

B: And with that, is it time to bring another pub to a close?

S: I think it is, good stuff once again.

B: Cheers, to wishful thinking!

S: Indeed we can all drink to that!

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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