A third place finish and ACL qualification mean that the 2014 season will go down as Guangzhou R&F’s most successful in the CSL to date. runs the rule over the players that made this possible for the blue and whites.
1. Cheng Yuelei – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 23 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 Rating: 7/10
A high profile error against Jiangsu saw him dropped in mid-season but other than that Cheng was the same secure presence between the sticks that he’s been since joining in 2012.
5. Zhang Yaokun (Captain) – Defender – Appearances: 29 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 1 Rating: 7.5/10
Zhang can be relied upon to be in the right place at the right time and do the right thing in an unfussy manner. Less likely to make errors than his defensive colleagues, he led the back line well but at the other end he demonstrated on several occasions that he couldn’t hit a barn door, notably against Liaoning
6. Xu Bo – Defender – Appearances: 10 (6) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 1 Rating: 6/10
Less of the comedy ‘come on as a substitute and instantly get yellow carded’ stuff this season from Xu who is an old style centre half; read happier punting it long than playing short passes. Still firmly behind Zhang and Jang Hyun-Soo in the centre-back pecking order though.
7. Jiang Ning – Midfielder – Appearances: 22(0) – Goals: 7 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 1 Rating: 7/10
A key part of Sven’s attacking trident behind Hamdallah and mainly used on the left, Jiang was much improved from last season and his 7 goals were his most since 2010 with Qingdao.
8. Park Jong-Woo – Midfielder – Appearances: 23 (0) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 5 – Reds: 2 Rating: 9/10
Hamdallah gets the plaudits for all the goals but Park made more of a difference than anybody to shoring up R&F’s defence at the other end of the pitch. The South Korean international has a fantastic work-rate in midfield and snapped into challenges throughout the season. If only he could get better at delivering corners and free kicks.
9. Abderazzak Hamdallah – Striker – Appearances: 21 (1) – Goals: 22 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0 Rating: 9/10
Coped admirably well with off-field difficulties to play as a lone striker and become R&F’s highest ever scorer in a league season. The Moroccan is well suited to this role as he’s not overly keen on passing. Whilst Hamdallah is not the most clinical of finishers, his work-rate and persistence mean that he has the ability to make an impact in a bigger league than his stated prefered destination, the MLS.
10. Davi – Midfielder – Appearances: 26 (1) – Goals: 14 – Yellows: 6 – Reds: 0 Rating: 8/10
Played in a deeper role than previously, his scoring exploits before the World Cup break, both from penalties and late bursts into the box, turned the clock back to his first season for R&F. Patchy form in the second half of the season and still too many fouls conceded bring his rating down but he was a key figure for the blue and whites this year.
11. Jiang Zhipeng – Defender – Appearances: 29 (0) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0 Rating: 7/10
A vast improvement on the players who have filled in at left back recently for R&F, new arrival Jiang nevertheless has a risky positional sense as he likes to gamble on intercepting diagonal balls. He’s the opposite of right back Tang Miao as Jiang is less likely to stop a cross but better at heading them clear once they come in. Almost ever present, his solitary goal was a cracking strike.
12. Zhang Shichang – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 7 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: – Reds: Rating: 6/10
Arrived on deadline day and looked a credible stand-in to Cheng Yuelei for a handful of games in mid-season without really challenging Cheng for the shirt in the longer term.
15. Jang Hyun-Soo – Defender – Appearances: 23 (0) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0 Rating: 7/10
Not as assured as colleague Zhang Yaokun and sometimes a victim of miscommunication with Tang Miao, the young South Korean is nevertheless a good defender and very comfortable on the ball too. Jang won the Asian Games as captain in September, has already been capped by the senior South Korean side and will only get better with age.
18. Zhang Yuan – Midfielder – Appearances: 17 (10) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 Rating: 4/10
Zhang continued to define mediocrity out on the right flank. He must’ve performed incredibly well in training in the first half of the season to keep his place in the starting XI as he certainly never showed it on the pitch. Zhang was finally dropped to the bench for the second half of the season only a year and a half too late and now approaching his 25th birthday may find himself behind the younger Chang Feiya at the start of next season.
19. Wang Xiaolong – Midfielder – Appearances: 15 (11) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 Rating: 6.5/10
Perhaps because of his glaring miss against Tianjin on opening day, Wang was edged out by the other wingers shortly after the start of the season and then found it hard to get a consistent run of starts. He deputised well enough when called upon though.
20. Tang Miao – Defender – Appearances: 29 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0 Rating: 7/10
Socks perennially halfway down his shins, Tang can’t be faulted for his work rate on the right going forward or his tackling in defence but needs to improve his heading and marking in the box if he’s to make the national squad.
21. Chang Feiya – Midfielder – Appearances: 10 (10) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 Rating: 6/10
In his first CSL season the youngster looked a bit lightweight at first but improved as time wore on. Only 21, Chang is definitely one to watch for the future.
23. Lu Lin – Midfielder – Appearances 11 (14) – Goals: 6 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 Rating: 7.5/10
What a season for Lu. The diminutive bundle of energy changed games as he came off the bench 14 times in a row before Sven finally promoted Lu from his supersub role to a starting slot just after the world cup break. Neither looked back after this as the Yuexiushan crowd favourite played well in an advanced midfield role and scored a superb overhead kick against Hangzhou. The 29 year old’s six goals were his best ever return in the CSL.
25. Aaron Olanare – Striker – Appearances: 10 (6) – Goals: 8 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0 Rating: 7/10
A mid-season arrival, Olanare did well to get 8 goals as understudy to Hamdallah. He is undeniably a physical presence up front but as the games went on Olanare showed he’s got skills too and can play wide left. The young Nigerian is a worthy, and more active, successor to Yakubu’s old number 25 shirt.
27. Ken Larsen – Striker – Appearances: 8 (1) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0 Rating: 5/10
The Dane was played as a striker, midfielder and attacking midfielder but despite a memorable goal against Hangzhou he struggled to build a rapport with his teammates with the result that they never passed to him. His contract was terminated early to allow Olanare to be signed.
29. Zhang Shuo – Striker – Appearances: 2 (5) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 Rating: 4/10
The only Chinese striker on the R&F books, Zhang found his opportunities limited by the foreigners ahead of him. He benefitted from comparisons to the sluggish Yakubu last year but that Zhang didn’t play after May this year and that even Zhang Yuan sometimes started ahead of him doesn’t say much for the 31 year old’s future prospects in Guangzhou.
33. Li Yan – Midfielder – Appearances: 4 (8) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 Rating: 5/10
Last season’s first choice defensive midfielder suddenly found himself below two new signings, Park Jong-Woo and Zhu Baojie, and had limited game time in 2014.
36. Zhu Baojie – Midfielder – Appearances: 10 (5) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 2 – Reds:0 Rating: 6/10
Arrived together with Jiang Zhipeng but had fewer chances to impress than his colleague as Park played so well in defensive midfield. Despite his smaller size he put himself around well against larger central midfield opponents and was part of the side that beat Evergrande at Tianhe.
The forgotten men
Ex-captain Li Zhe and sometime China internationals Wu Pingfeng and Li Jianhua both signed from Guangzhou Evergrande at the start of last season found themselves frozen out this year with the former pair relegated to the reserves and Li Jianhua restricted to just four appearances.
A special mention for the R&F scouts is also due here. Jiang Zhipeng and Wang Xiaolong were both well known in China, whilst Park Jong-Woo and Jang Hyun-Soo were known in Asia but hats off for plucking the relatively unkown Hamdallah and Olanare from Scandanavia. Ken Larsen didn’t facilitate as many goals from midfield as expected but four out of five is an impressive success ratio for the scouts. Importantly, all these players are 25 or younger so should provide a base for Guangzhou R&F looking ahead to next season. Looking backwards though, these videos show the blue and whites at their best in 2014 which was a record breaking season for the Cantonese.