The slow-motion car crash that is Shanghai Shenhua has finally slid into the gutter for another season, and our correspondents are here to pick over the wreckage. Cameron Wilson, Steve Crooks and Andrew White run the rule over the good, the bad and Wang Changqing at Hongkou this year.
1 – Geng Xiaofeng – 5/10 – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 11 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Disappointing; expected better from a (briefly) international keeper. Showed some good shot-stopping ability, but suspect confidence and handling. While perhaps unlucky to lose his place to Qiu, did little to suggest he deserved it back in his rare outings.
White: Not being able to displace the previous reserve goalkeeper is pretty damning, but hard to know if that was about picking the local lad rather than the one on loan. Pretty shaky when we did see him in the opening fixtures.
5 – Cho Byung-Kuk – 7/10 – Defender – Appearances: 21 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0
Wilson: A very solid addition to the Shenhua back line, Cho’s cool head and cooler marshalling of Shenhua’s makeshift defense meant he was one of the few success stories in the squad this year.
Crooks: Started well, but looked a little slow and suspect in the latter half of the season. A solid back-line marshal, but pales in comparison to Schiavi in the experienced-international-centre-back stakes.
6 – Li Wenbo – 1/10 – Fullback – Appearances: 14 (1) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Delight in signing a dedicated right-back turned to horror when it transpired that Li’s positioning and tackling ability were so suspect that a series of out-of-position players were required to fill in for the hapless #6 over the course of the season.
Wilson: Dreadful. How did this guy get so many games at Guangzhou R&F? Slow, immobile and a poor tackler, it’s beyond this correspondent as to how he was able to make as many appearances as he did.
7 – Wang Changqing – 0/10 – Liability – Appearances: 14 (4) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0
White: Without doubt the worst thing in a Shenhua shirt this year, and that’s saying something. The ‘out-of-position’ card gets played for a winger playing fullback, but most of his football in the last two seasons at least has been in the latter position; one he has turned into an absolute horror show for the side. Has become a figurehead for all that is rotten about the club – an established player that is seemingly undroppable. Absolutely *has* to be part of the clearout if Shenhua have any ambitions at all for next season.
Wilson: Utter garbage. His mistakes lead to more conceded goals than any other player one can remember. If he had any decency he would have left professional football after his so-bad-it-must-have-been-paid-for performance against Guangzhou R&F in 2013. M***h f***r – don’t come back.
8– Fan Lingjiang – 5/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 12 (4) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Is he a full-back or midfielder? Why has he been seen so little in years gone by? Why do a sizeable amount of the Hongkou crowd consistently boo him? Fan poses more questions than answers, but was mostly solid and should be part of the squad next year.
White: Another anonymous screening midfielder that I’d struggle to pick out of a lineup. Shenhua’s approach to central midfield seems mainly about placing bodies in the right kind of areas and hoping they get in the way somehow. Lingjiang does indeed possess a body and occasionally gets in the way of the things, so I guess can be counted a moderate success. The aim is then to recycle the ball as quickly as possible to someone who knows what to do with it, in which he tends to be less successful.
10– Gio Moreno – 8/10 – Attacking Midfielder – Appearances: 27 (0) – Goals: 8 – Yellows: 8 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Once again, Gio was the saver of Shenhua’s bacon on more than a few occasions. Continued improving this year, not quite so wasteful as previous seasons, but still a frustrating player for the most part. One of the most talented players in the entire league, he’s ultimately hamstrung by the dearth of quality team-mates.
White: The captain of the titanic, listlessly wandering the decks to see if the band are still playing. Only to find the band drowned, the instruments broken and everyone else f–king off to the lifeboats. Yes, he could have tried harder, but with this lot to work with it’s hard to be too critical. Some outstanding, game-changing moments at key junctures, as usual, and the main reason Shenhua weren’t in a relegation dogfight.
12 – Bai Jiajun – 7/10 – Fullback – Appearances: 21 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 1
Wilson: You always know what you will get with this pint-sized defender – tenacious tackling, hard running and good going forward. Bai had another solid if unspectacular season. One of the few playing personnel worth hanging onto for next year.
Crooks: The Duracell bunny of Shenhua. Even had a decent game playing right-wing against Harbin.
13 – Paulo Andre – 4/10 – Defender – Appearances: 22 (1) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Imposing at times, and with generally good distribution, Paulo nonetheless disappointed whenever he came up against an opponent with a modicum of either pace or trickery. Most oil tankers are more mobile than this lad.
Wilson: A mystery as to how a player of his pedigree – a regular with Corinthians – could play so badly. Probably an classic example of a foreign player unable to adapt to the culture of China both inside and outside the game. The Brazilian looked unsure of what to do most of the time he was on the pitch, and made costly errors on more than one occasion.
15 – Zhan Yilin – 4/10 – Defender – Appearances: 20 (10) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Has increased his ranking by a point with a couple of decent cameos in the last month of the season; but very limited and a squad player at best.
White: Can best be summarised by failing to make a place his own in the defensive merry-go-round – if you can’t establish yourself in a rearguard that bad there’s not much to be said for you.
16 – Wang Fei – 6/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 1 (8) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Fringe player who proved he was worth more appearances than he got. Whilst he often indulged in dead-end runs, and really looks in need of regular sessions down the gym, he suggested he had an eye for a good pass and cross and scored his first league goal for the club this season. Definitely better than old puffers and first-teamers played out of position.
Crooks: I’ve always had a soft spot for Wang since his breakthrough under Tigana; he’s that rare breed of midfielder with two working feet and something of a football brain. Deserves more opportunities than he’s had.
White: I have literally never heard of him. Are you sure he’s at Hongkou?
18 – Gao Di – 8/10 – Forward – Appearances: 22 (1) – Goals: 5 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0
White: Possibly the bright spark of Shenhua’s season, were it not extinguished halfway through. Gao Di looked excellent in the opening fixtures, with predatory instincts delivering five goals for a team not creating many chances. Injury intervened when his form was already tailing off, but he did enough to set high expectations for next season.
Wilson: Played out of position for almost the entire season, Gao Di was this correspondent’s player of the year. Nimble, a natural finisher and good on the ball, he scored on his national team debut this season and should have a place in the Shenhua strikeforce for years to come.
19 – Zheng Kaimu – 5/10 – Defensive Midfielder – Appearances: 7 (9) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Thought he would make a solid centre-half, was proved badly wrong when Batista finally tried it. Still a decent, if limited, young option in the screening role though.
White: That dreadful spell at centre-back defined his season, and some half-useful performances elsewhere are hard to remember. There’s been lots of shouting about giving youth a chance at the club, but if this is the best the youth team has to offer then that route has to be approached with caution – throwing them into the breach like this in unfamiliar positions can’t be doing anything for their confidence or development
20 – Xu Liang – 5/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 22 (1) – Goals: 3 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Xu still retains his class but his 33 years caught up with him this season. Unfortunately he’s spent as a serious first team force. Deputised at centre-half this season well enough, but caught out for lack of height and pace on numerous occasions.
Crooks: Struggled awfully in midfield to recover from a bad injury last year; looked off the pace constantly, and even his touch and dead-ball class deserted him. Deputised ably at center-back given the lack of options, but time and injuries have robbed Xu of what’s needed to lock down a first-team place.
21 – Jiang Kun – 7/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 12 (6) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0
White: Writing 7/10 next to Jiang Kun’s name in 2014 feels a bit mental, but genuinely seems to have pulled his (ample) weight this year. Reinvented as a man who knows he’s lost his legs, he kept hold of the ball better than anyone else in the centre, and worked the impact substitute role well to craft a few late goals. A surprising improvement from a dreadful 2013, but his reaction to being substituted in the final home game suggests this may well be it. Not before time, it has to be said.
Crooks: In with a shout for player of the season, remarkably – kept Shenhua’s midfield together with decent ball recycling, and even scored a couple of important goals. Much better than previous years, but Shenhua really, really should be doing better than a 36-year-old puffing his way around the middle of the park.
22 – Qiu Shenjiong – 6/10 – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 18 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 5 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Another relative success story – Qiu lost a significant amount of weight to make the no 1 jersey his own. Still out of shape however and best suited to being a decent reserve keeper.
White: He’s not actually as bad as his rotund frame suggests, is he? Not a go-to model for aspirational keepers, but generally gets in the way of the ball, unless of course it’s hit from distance. Some real clangers from long-range efforts, a trait shared with other big-boned stoppers. Popular at Hongkou, presumably for the ‘one of us’ feeling he inspires by not looking any way like a professional athlete.
28 – Cao Yunding – 6/10 – Attacking Midfielder– Appearances: 24 (4) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Improved this season with his creative spark returning if not his goal scoring touch. However, still playing well below his potential, being better than last year isn’t much of an achievement. Must develop his great vision and put it to use more.
White: His local status means he can do no wrong in a lot of eyes, and he’s just about worth the reputation, but really needs to start delivering on a more regular basis. Some flashes of inspiration really do stand out, but end up highlighting how little he does the rest of the time. Gets in some nice positions but hampered by poor decision-making, as seems fairly endemic across the CSL. Still chipped in with a few useful assists.
Crooks: Copy-and-paste any of the last couple of years’ Cao reviews – has the talent to do much better.
30 – Tao Jin – 1/10 – Defender – Appearances: 2 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Included for novelty factor alone. Tao had started just ten league games since graduating to Shenhua’s first team over six years ago, this season he increased this pathetic tally by two. That he could only get two starts in the year of Shenhua’s weakest ever squad really begs the question of why Shenhua hold onto him, and why he doesn’t leave of his own volition.
Crooks / White: We have no idea who this guy is.
31 – Paulo Henrique – 6/10 – Forward – Appearances: 11 (2) – Goals: 6 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Made a fantastic first impression with some great dribbling skills. Has since regressed on almost a game-by-game basis, such that there should be genuine questions over whether he’s worthy of a squad slot for 2015.
White: One half of the emergency reinforcement double-act, which ended up more pantomime horse than american cavalry. He’s got the running-around bit sorted, and contributes well in the build-up, but seems sadly lacking when it came to converting chances. The odd strike of note but probably not enough to justify re-signing.
34 – Lucas Viatri – 6/10 – Forward – Appearances: 12 (4) – Goals: 4 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0
Crooks: Scored the best goal this correspondent has ever seen at Hongkou, and turned a couple of other games on their head with his introduction as a sub. Doesn’t do a lot when the side is struggling to get the ball out of their own half, but is that really the #9’s fault?
White: The other half of said pantomime horse, each of whom have half the characteristics needed of a half-decent striker. Lucas has the ball-hitting-net bit sorted, but little else to bring to the party. Those that really prosper up front in this league tend to create their own chances, and Viatri did little of that, but was able to put away the few things that came within a suitable distance of his person
36 – Wang Shouting – 6/10 – Defensive Midfielder – Appearances: 27 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 10 – Reds: 1
Crooks: Solid water-carrier, and rarely mistimes a tackle – although when he does, it’s brutal. Would be worthy of 7/10 if any of his long-range shots ever got even vaguely near the target.
White: Water-carrying is all well and good when you’re Deschamps ferrying the stuff to Zidane, but the analogy loses its relevance when you’re fetching for – well, who exactly? Limited on the ball but determined enough off it, Wang Shouting probably the pick of anonymous screening midfielders – the one position Shenhua seem to have options for.
57 – Liu Jiawei – 6/10 – Fullback – Appearances: 3 (0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0
Wilson: Youngster who looked good in his late season cameos in meaningless games, his competence undermining Batista’s blinkered selection policy for not picking him earlier.
White: I like this guy. Injected young, directionless enthusiasm into a team lacking two of those three attributes, and looks capable of picking up many, many stupid cards. One to watch.
Crooks: At least five times the player Li Wenbo is.
Title pic: “Shenhua please come back as soon as possile” -taken in the final home game, the 2-5 reverse to Tianjin.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015