Last season was on to forget for Changchun Yatai and the first quarter of the season was beginning to spell trouble for the Dongbei side who now fin themselves sitting miraculously in tenth place in the CSL with just two games remaining.
Last season almost ended in relegation for Changchun and deals were made to bring players in that could boost the team for the 2014 season.
Rafael Coelho joined from Guangzhou R&F on a free after scoring 25 goals in just over 50 games for the southern side.
Fatos Beciraj joined from Europe to replace the departing Jan Rezek and things looked better for the team.
Come April, however, the team were second-from-bottom in the league and, other than the stunning 3-1 victory away to Guangzhou Evergrande, they had nothing to shout about.
Former Jiangsu Sainty Super Cup-winning coach, Dragan Okuka, joined the team to help restore some pride and earn some enough victories to keep them out of the drop-zone.
Changchun slowly climbed the table out of the relegation zone by the summer transfer window and many more deals were made to increase the talent pool within the side.
Loanee signings Feng Renliang and Yang Xu were brought in along with a 2.5 million euro deal for Szabolcs Huszti from Hannover 96 in Germany.
Things were off to a great start with Changchun achieving a run of 5 games unbeaten shortly after returning from the summer break and they clawed their way up the table.
Not many people believed such a climb would continue, despite “doing the double” over Guangzhou Evergrande with a 2-1 victory at home.
Following a number of important victories and numerous draws taking points away from rivals has lead to Changchun sitting 10th in the CSL on goal-difference, sitting above Hangzhou Greentown and two points clear of Shanghai Shenxin.
Unfortunately, a 3-1 defeat to ‘local’ rivals Liaoning Whowin has dampened the team’s spirits. But it has not ruined their top-ten desire.
Changchun are in a fortunate position as their remaining two games of the season both come against Shenxin at home (26th October) and Hangzhou away (2nd November).
If they can earn victories against both teams then a Top Ten finish is guaranteed for the North-East side and the team’s fans will have a happy end to the season.
Any other result could spell disaster for a Changchun side that has fought hard throughout the season to attempt to earn back respect from the rest of the league.
A top-ten finish will give Changchun hope for progressing further next season and could aid the team in its attempt to re-sign key players from this season, including loanees Feng Renliang and Yang Xu, as well as making new signings to improve the team’s defence and give them a higher goal to aim for next season.
With Dragan Okuka at the helm, the future is bright in Changchun.
The team is quietly on the rise and next season, with the right signings, other teams will begin to take notice of the 2007 Champions.
They will play with a renewed determination to reach their former glory days and perhaps put together a strong cup run next season to give their fans even more to cheer about.
Feng Renliang and Yang Xu should be transfer targets for the team. They have both contributed well and could both become key assets to the team.
With their futures at their respective clubs (Guangzhou Evergrande and Shandong Luneng) looking bleak, it would not be too hard to imagine both players joining Changchun, where they will be starting most games and would be focal points for the team’s attacking play.
Zhao Peng, who also joined on loan from Guangzhou Evergrande, was unable to play a game for Changchun due to an unspecified injury and his absence was definitely felt.
Changchun must look at the defensive depth and must address this need in the transfer market ahead, ensuring they will be able to hold their own against any CSL team in the future.
Now is the time for Changchun to invest in new players. They have the capabilities of a top-ten side but could use that extra quality to achieve a top-five position next season.
But for the immediate future, they must overcome Shanghai Shenxin and Hangzhou Greentown to prove to themselves and their fans that they can achieve the top-ten finish they deserve.