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The North-East View: A Look ahead for Changchun

The 2014 season is over and it’s now time for Changchun Yatai to look ahead to 2015 , starting with a productive off-season.

The Past
The last two seasons have been ones to forget for Changchun Yatai fans, who had to watch their team finish 14th in 2013 and 13th in 2014.

In the 2012 season, Changchun finished 7th in the CSL and during parts of the 2014 season it looked like the team could push towards that position once again.

Unfortunately, Yatai fans were left disappointed as the team’s final run of games lead to them dropping back down towards the relegation zone and finally finishing in 13th position due to their results against Hangzhou deciding the tie-breaker.

The Present
But that is the past. Dragan Okuka was not the manager at the start of the season, where Changchun slipped down into the relegation zone before his appointment.

Okuka helped drag Changchun out of the bottom two and lead them to victories that made people begin to talk about the team’s relevance once again.

Crucial signings of players such as Yang Xu and, most-importantly, Szabolcs Huszti lead to Changchun playing a more free-flowing attacking game that presented them with many more chances to win games.

However, despite the improvements, Changchun failed to score enough goals to see them overcome opponents that, in reality, they should have beaten.

Two losses to CSL-newbies and, now, League One-returnees Harbin Yiteng showed the cutting-edge that Changchun lacked up front.

Eninho, an attacking midfielder, was the team’s leading goal-scorer with just nine goals for the season and the team’s second-highest scorer was forward Fatos Beciraj, who managed to net seven.

When teams such as Dalian Aerbin, who were also relegated along with Harbin this season, have top goal-scorers with over ten goals (Bruno Meneghel had twelve this season) then questions need to be asked about the future of Changchun’s team.

The Future
Dragan Okuka is the right man for this position. He did wonders with Jiangsu Sainty, winning the Super Cup with the team and leaving them in a strong position that has lead to them playing in the FA Cup Final this season.

Okuka did a great job making deals in the summer transfer market but most of the players on Changchun’s team were not bought by him. Beciraj and Iglesias were two of the foreign players that Okuka did not sign and could be shown the door this off-season.

Beciraj was seen as the team’s main goal-threat, along with Rafael Coelho, at the start of the season but the two foreigners couldn’t score more than nine goals combined.

This is very worrying for Changchun, who must now look to secure strong attacking options for the 2015 season. But attacking isn’t the only issue that Changchun must address.

Defence is also an area that the team needs to look at, with only four or five players that played regularly and with performances that made the team’s defence predictable.

The team needs to look at injecting a talented defender into their team to give them a solid foundation alongside long-serving player Anzur Ismailov.

Captain Zhang Xiaofei should also be kept as a key member of the defence based on his desire to fight for every ball and his unrelenting pursuit of opposition forwards.

Fan-favourite Lu Jianjun is a decent player, but sometimes might be caught out of position due to his attacking mentality and so could be considered a decent option should no new players be available.

Changchun’s midfield is the strongest part of the team with their defence and strikers being below-average and their goalkeeping being unspectacular. The team needs a big upgrade this season and there are many players that could help improve the team going forward.

Possible targets?

Below is a list of players that currently play in China that could be good/decent options for the team, with the goal for next season being a Top 10 finish.

Bruno Meneghel – Brazilian – Forward
Meneghel played for the disappointing Dalian Aerbin team this season, but was still able to score twelve goals throughout the season. His talents would be wasted in China League One and as Changchun isn’t so far away from Dalian it would be good to see a player that can be a legitimate goal threat move provinces next season.

Yang Xu – Chinese – Forward
Yang played for Changchun on-loan this season and showed some flashes of ability that could aid Changchun next season. Partnered with a strong foreign striker could give Changchun a nice strike-force next season.

Guto – Brazilian – Forward
Guto was the top goal-scorer for China League One last season with twenty-one goals and is unlikely to leave Chongqing, having been promoted to the CSL for next season. Should Guto leave Chongqing, Changchun should jump at the chance to see how his game translates to the higher level.

Yu Dabao – Chinese – Forward
A played with his best years ahead of him at 26 that has played twenty four games for the national side and could provide Changchun with solid attacking options. Could be tempted after Dalian’s relegation this season.

Babacar Gueye – Senegalese – Forward
This might be a reach, but Gueye has scored 62 goals in 82 league matches with Shenzhen Ruby and scored 16 in last season’s China League One. A step up might be a challenge for him but moving up could give him confidence to try anything to score.

Peter Utaka – Nigerian – Forward
Utaka fell from grace with Beijing Guoan, perhaps punching above his weight with 2014’s runners-up. If he was a Changchun player he would be the team’s number one striker and would likely play every game, giving him the most chances to score goals. Working with players such as Huszti and Eninho could help Utaka net a few goals without having to do too much running around.

Zhang Jiaqi – Chinese – Defensive Midfielder
Another player that went down with Dalian Aerbin this season. Having spent time playing in Europe, he joined Dalian in hopes of playing regularly at the top level in China. With Dalian now in League One he may be tempted away and Changchun could do with his defensive experience.

Feng Renliang – Chinese Midfielder
Another player that played for Changchun on-loan this season. Unable to break into the first team at Guangzhou Evergrande, Feng will be looking to play regularly next season with another team.

Niklas Backman – Swedish – Defender
The Swedish international defender would be a steal for Changchun. With Dalian relegated, he may desire to move back into the CSL. Only 25 years old, Backman could become the foundation of a strong defence alongside Ismailov.

Zhao Peng – Chinese – Defender
Signed for Changchun on-loan this season but was unable to make an appearance due to a serious injury sustained during the summer break. Was an unused substitute a handful of times and would have a lot to prove should he be signed by Changchun next year. His international experience would be valuable.

Deng Xiaofeng – Chinese – Goalkeeper
Deng played for Shanghai Shenhua on-loan last season and returns to his parent club Shandong Luneng with only the prospect of. Changchun should attempt to sign him due to his age (27) and experience with both sides.

Yang Cheng – Chinese – Goalkeeper
Yang has played over 100 games for Shandong, being part of the team’s that won three CSL titles (2006, 2008 and 2010), two FA cups (2004 and 2006) as well as a Super Cup (2004). Currently he faces a future of being Wang Dalei’s back-up. His experience could be valuable for Changchun should other players be unavailable.

James Reeve is a British sports writer and editor for Wild East Football. James is an avid fan of Changchun Yatai, having been a season-ticket holder in 2015, and has been involved with Wild East Football for a number of years.

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