Shanghai East Asia’s second season in the CSL featured great goals, memorable victories and intense derbies. Despite a late slump which put an end to their Champions League ambitions, the club can look back on 2014 with a great deal of pride at the progress made over the last 2 years. runs the rule over the players who made their fifth placed finish possible.
1 – Yan Junling – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 30 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 9/10
An excellent year for the young stopper, Yan’s progress was one of the most satisfying aspects of a thoroughly pleasing season, and gave further credence to the coaching skills of ex-England international, Ian Walker. Made it onto the bench for the national team’s impressive 2-1 victory over Paraguay in October, however still has a way to go to usurp current number one Wang Dalei’s place in the first team. Lapses in concentration have proven costly on occasion, although Yan nonetheless still maintains the ability to single-handedly win points for the team (particularly when not always afforded the best protection by those in front of him).
2 – Zhang Wei – Defender – Appearances: 8 (3) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 5/10
Made his debut in the 2-2 draw at Guangzhou R&F back in May (albeit only as a 90th minute substitution for Wu Lei), then made to wait another four months for his second appearance; another late cameo from the bench against Guangzhou Evergrande with the side already 2-0 down. Despite being a peripheral squad player for the majority of the season, played every minute of East Asia’s final five games of the season in Fu Huan’s absence – a run which coincidentally put paid to their Champions League ambitions – but struggled to really make any lasting impression.
3 – Wu Yuyin – Defender – Appearances: 10 (4) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 1 – Rating: 6/10
Limited playing time thanks to the settled pairing of foreign centre backs Ransford Addo and Ibán Cuadrado, but provided able cover when called upon, whilst also acting as an emergency full back at times. At 24, one of the elder domestic players, although a move elsewhere may be necessary if he is to find more playing time and push on in his career.
4 – Wang Shenchao – Defender – Appearances: 30 (0) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 8/10
The captain played every minute of his side’s 30 games this year; leading by example as the most consistent member in a back four all too prone to errors. Assured in defence whilst also providing impressive support going forward, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Wang left out of the 50-man national training camp in back May, with the less experienced, if more attacking East Asia full back Fu Huan receiving the call instead.
5 – Wang Jiajie – Defender/Midfielder – Appearances: 26 (7) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 6/10
Started the season well, regularly slotting in alongside Cai Huikang in the centre of midfield in order to provide more stability and protection to the back four. Moved into the full back position during the latter stages of the campaign, and switched from right to left numerous times as East Asia attempted to plug the hole left by Fu Huan’s absence. Visibly less comfortable in defence, his positioning and marking were thrown into question as he struggled to adapt to this new position. A decent backup option in midfield but, providing post-season transfer activity addresses the side’s defensive concerns, may struggle to clock up quite so many appearances in 2015.
6 – Cai Huikang – Midfielder – Appearances: 28 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 7 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 7/10
Another near ever-present and an integral member of this locally-raised squad, Cai had his work cut out for him in safeguarding a somewhat porous back four. Highly effective in the tackle (indeed, topping the league charts for tackles made) and with a good eye for an interception, the central midfielder is effective at performing the task of disrupting opposition attacks. However, a lack of pace and mobility – in no small part due to his heavy-set frame – can often leave him toiling to catch up when facing a fast, incisive opposing side. Combined with the aforementioned Wang Jiajie, East Asia’s midfield looked a lot more sturdy, though admittedly less dynamic going forward.
7 – Wu Lei – Midfielder – Appearances: 28 (1) – Goals: 12 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 8/10
Three goals in his opening three games gave East Asia fans hope of their star man bettering his total of 15 in 2013. Nevertheless, injury blighted much of Wu’s first half of the season, and after the early season goal-rush, he then went 11 games without finding the back of the net. Consequently, it was no surprise to see East Asia’s own fortunes improve as Wu’s form picked up. Plundering 7 goals in 8 games after the resumption of the league in July, Wu helped thrust his side into a commanding position to secure Champions League football. However, a missed penalty at rivals Shanghai Shenhua – coupled with a performance which suggested the occasion had gotten the better of him – signalled the start of another dip in form, which led to a second barren spell of 6 games without a goal. Again, it is no coincidence that East Asia’s quest for third place unravelled as Wu’s performance levels dropped. Still, a return of 12 goals and 10 assists in a season in which he only intermittently hit top gear is not to be sniffed at. Almost unplayable on his day and in desperate need of a European move if he is to fulfil his considerable potential, the club’s new owners will undoubtedly want to keep hold of their prize asset if they are to better this year’s standing next time around.
9 – Tobias Hysén – Forward – Appearances: 28 (0) – Goals: 19 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 9/10
Standing alongside Guangzhou R&F’s Abderrazak Hamdallah as perhaps the CSL’s signing of the season, Hysén’s goals were crucial to his side’s surge up the league table. Brought to Shanghai for a bargain fee, believed to be a little under £1,000,000, Hysén immediately demonstrated his value to the team by bagging 4 goals in his first 4 games. Suffered a slight dip in form from thereon – going the whole of April without netting – but recovered by scoring 7 goals in the following 3 fixtures, and averaging a goal every other game for the rest of the campaign. Aside from his excellent eye for goal, Hysén’s movement and burst of pace wreaked havoc amongst rival defences; pulling players out of position and creating space both for himself and those around him. Link-up play with Wu Lei flourished over the course of the season, whilst his influence over the side was crystal clear (East Asia only won three games in which the Swede did not score). Still has one year left on his current deal, although rumoured to be in favour of a move back to IFK Göteborg. East Asia would be hard-pressed to replace both his goals and impact on the team as a whole.
10 – Zhu Zhengrong – Forward – Appearances: 14 (12) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 6/10
Played a total of only 36 minutes throughout the entire first half of the season, and was believed to be on the verge of a move to neighbours Shanghai Shenxin before the summer recess. Nonetheless, came back into the fold in August, and minutes gradually increased. Only started in 2 of his 14 appearances; both coming only once a third place finish had been firmly ruled out. Revered by fans for being ‘one of their own’, his cult status was reaffirmed by scoring a sumptuous volley to snatch a point and a share of the bragging rights in the August derby at Shenhua. Looks set to be moved on next year however, as fresh investment in the squad will surely push him further down the pecking order.
11 – Lv Wenjun – Midfielder – Appearances: 22 (6) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 6/10
Began the season in excellent form, looking sharp on the left wing and showing an ability to beat his opposing full back that had been lacking the previous year. However, the 5-1 demolition of Shanghai Shenxin in East Asia’s first home fixture of the season perfectly demonstrated Lv’s innate capriciousness – the winger opened the scoring with an incredible overhead kick, before a rush of blood to the head caused him to flick a middle finger in the direction of his own bench – apparently a response to his being in and out of the side the season before. One would suggest that working hard on the training ground and consistently performing in league games would be the more preferred method of currying favour with the coaching staff, and his subsequent 4 game ban certainly did nothing to help him nail down a starting berth. Nevertheless, returned to the starting line-up for the remainder of the first half of the year but seemingly fell out of favour once the CSL season resumed; starting only 3 games between July and November. A tricky, pact winger when on form, Lv must add consistency to his game if he is to make an impact next year.
12 – Li Haowen – Forward – Appearances: 6 (4) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 5/10
Another who struggled to make any major impression in the league, although his only goal – at home to Harbin in the final game before the mid-season break – meant East Asia went into the holiday on a positive note, having not won in 5 attempts previous. Total of 48 minutes played across the rest of the season raises questions over his importance to the squad, but at just 20 years old, still has time to stake a claim for his future.
13 – Zheng Dalun – Midfielder – Appearances: 2 (2) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 4/10
Harsh really to give him any rating, having amassed a grand total of 13 minutes of action this year, featuring late on in the two home games against rival Shanghai sides Shenxin and Shenhua. Still only 20 years of age, but looks unlikely to make his mark on the team if this year’s limited showing is anything to go by.
14 – Li Shenglong – Forward – Appearances: 7 (7) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 5/10
Clocked up more appearances than last term, but still managed to amass less total minutes on the pitch. Another young forward with time on his side, although fleeting appearances suggest a lack of faith in the Shanghainese striker. Quick and energetic, although technical deficiencies mean it is questionable whether he will remain at the club beyond the near future.
15 – Lin Chuangyi – Forward – Appearances: 15 (9) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 6/10
Despite the top-heavy squad as far as young, domestic attackers go, Lin was one of the few in this group to actually be used with any regularity throughout the campaign. Started on 6 occasions, however, it is telling that he did not complete a full 90 minutes in any of these outings, and was even hauled off at half time in three consecutive games in which he struggled to exert any influence on proceedings. Of the peripheral strikers in the squad, seems the most likely to retain his place once the new owners take charge; possesses pace and knows how to beat his opposite number, but lack of goals (0 in 32 appearances over 2 years) is a growing concern.
18 – Zhang Yi – Midfielder – Appearances: 3 (2) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 4/10
Given a baptism of fire by making his debut in the 5-0 away defeat at Guangzhou Evergrande – his one and only start in 3 appearances all season. Endured a torrid time as the champions tore into a sub-par East Asia, whilst most notable contribution from thereon came in a 5 minute cameo in the 5-2 victory over Guizhou Renhe, in which he barely touched the ball, and picked up a booking for time wasting.
19 – Imad Khalili – Appearances: 9 (6) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 6/10
Brought to the club in the summer to fill the final foreign slot available to the team, despite the form of Tobias Hysén and his burgeoning partnership with Daniel McBreen up front. His arrival was nonetheless greeted warmly by East Asia fans, having topped the Swedish Allsvenskan’s scoring charts the year before (as indeed Hysén had done four years previously). Initial concerns over his fitness – having not played since early May – meant spending the first few weeks of the second half of the season playing catch-up, whilst Hysén continued to demonstrate his value within the side. Struggled to make any impact in his first two substitute appearances, but demonstrated what he was capable of in a rousing 6-minute display at Shanghai Shenxin in late July; putting his side in front in the final minute of normal time. However, struggled to make any further impact, besides a well-taken (if slightly fortunate) goal in the 1-1 draw in Harbin. Will be interesting to see where his future lies, as he clearly possesses the ability to do well in this league if given a run of games, although if Hysén is retained, will surely struggle to cement his position in the starting line-up. Limited foreign numbers and more pressing concerns in both centre midfield and defence mean his position could come under scrutiny this winter.
20 – Wang Jiayu – Midfielder – Appearances: 28 (1) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 6 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 7/10
Having returned to the club where his career began from neighbours Shanghai Shenxin before the season kicked off, the diminutive midfielder slotted seamlessly back into a team comprised chiefly of his boyhood friends and teammates. Started all but one game in which he was eligible to play, and demonstrated exactly why he was brought back to the club – looking more than comfortable on the ball, and displaying a wide range of passing which helped contribute to his total of 9 assists (almost a fifth of his side’s entire goal tally) throughout the season. Only found the net twice, but helped secure 3 points as a result – scoring the only goal in a tense home tie against Changchun. Overall, a highly satisfactory first season back at Shanghai Stadium.
21 – Ibán Cuadrado – Defender – Appearances: 27 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 6/10
The veteran Spanish defender’s partnership with Ransford Addo in the heart of defence began the year in rather comfortable fashion, conceding 4 goals in the first 5 games to put East Asia in a promising early position. However, as the season progressed, a lack of cover and a rather vast expanse of space afforded to opposition attacks in front of the back four put greater pressure on the centre back pairing. It was in these instances where Cuadrado’s limitations showed; pace was lacking, whilst one-on-one situations did nothing for the state of fans’ fingernails. Authoritative at set pieces and positionally competent, the Spaniard certainly merits praise for his attempts at marshalling of a defence that at times appeared unaware of how to hold a line. Now in the latter stages of his career, it looks unlikely that he will be retained for the next campaign, as new investment will surely look to address an all-too-often permeable defence.
23 – Fu Huan – Defender – Appearances: 22 (2) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 1 – Rating: 7/10
Excelled in the first half of the season, as an attacking full back with bags of pace and a fervent desire to provide support going forward. At the same time, those same attacking instincts led to his side being fairly susceptible to being hit on the break, and the young right back must learn to balance defence and attack if he is to maintain his impressive progress next term. Called up to the national team training camp in May, without making it into the playing squad, but featured for the national under-23 side in this year’s Asian Games. Unfortunately picked up an injury in the tournament that effectively ruled him out for the remainder of the season and ended up costing his side, as an ever-changing back four shipped 7 goals in 5 games to end their hopes of ACL qualification. A work in progress, but enough there to suggest he can improve further next year.
25 – Ransford Addo – Defender – Appearances: 28 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0 – Rating: 7/10
The other half of East Asia’s foreign central defensive partnership, Ransford Addo has gained something of a cult following amongst fans at Shanghai Stadium thanks to some gut-busting performances, and a desire to cover any mistakes that may occur amongst the defence. Positioning can sometimes leave him striving to get back and cover, but has rescued his side on more than one occasion, having raced back into a position to clear his lines. Rumoured to be leaving the club as his contract has now run down; East Asia will have to bring in a centre back of real quality and experience if they are to consider it an upgrade on the Ghanaian centre back.
27 – Yang Shiyuan – Defender – Appearances: 2 (2) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 1 – Rating: 3/10
Played an unspectacular 11 minutes at Hangzhou way back in March, as a late substitution charged with task of protecting his side’s 2-1 lead. However, most remarkable (and only other) outing came in a frenzied final 5 minutes of the first East Asia-Shenhua derby of 2014 – in which he came on, committed an outrageous two-footed challenge, got shoved to the floor by Bai Jiajun, and then saw red for his indiscretion. Did not play a single minute from then onwards.
36 – Daniel McBreen – Forward – Appearances: 28 (3) – Goals: 5 – Yellows: 8 – Reds: 1 – Rating: 6/10
The Australian forward didn’t find the net on too many occasions this year, however with Tobias Hysén tasked with getting the goals required to make an assault on the top 3, McBreen’s role lay deeper, acting as the bridge between the midfield and attack. Still, scored a contender for goal of the season in the game Shanghai derby, with an extraordinary 30-yard strike which rocketed into the top corner. Nevertheless, his desire to repeat this feat cost the side on a number of occasions throughout the 2014 season, as he was too often guilty of attempting the spectacular when better options were available. Another of the foreign contingent with question marks lingering over his future, with new owners and indeed a new management team imminently arriving.