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Wuhan Weekly: Ranking the players who were seconds away from CSL

Having missed out on promotion by a few seconds, it’s time to assess the performance of Wuhan’s players in their first season back in League One.

2 –Liu Shangkun – Defender – Goals: 1

5/10 Not a great year for the 22-year at the problem position of right-back. His underwhelming performances were illustrated later in the season when he was phased out of the starting line up in favour of an out of position Luo Yi and was rarely seen again.

Nowhere to Hide: Ai Zhibo  rues his costly mistake against Shenzhen

Nowhere to Hide: Ai Zhibo (4) rues his costly mistake against Shenzhen

4 – Ai Zhibo  – Defender – Goals: 4

7/10 A popular addition to the team when he moved over from Jiangsu Sainty in the summer, local boy Ai showed flashes of real quality this year. Unfortunately, there were also a few occasions when he illustrated why a team that regularly plays with three centre backs might have been willing to let him go. A terrible mistake to gift Shenzhen a point in the penultimate home game of the season and his foolish sending off for a second booking when his team were clinging to a 1-0 lead against Shenyang were two such moments, but Ai has counterbalanced these mishaps with strong leadership skills and the threat he provides from set pieces which has seen him bag four goals in just half a season.

5 – Qiu TianyiDefender – Goals: 0  

5.5/10 Qiu got a lot of game time in the first half of the season as Jacques Faty’s central defensive partner, but the arrival of Ai Zhibo in the summer spelled the end of a regular starting role. Though a little slow, the former Shanghai Shenhua man looked good at times in the early part of the season and put in a memorably heroic performance in the 1-0 home win against Shijiazhuang back in May. The arrival of Ai meant Qiu sightings became increasingly rare until they stopped completely during the final run-in. While this may have been because of injury, Qiu’s absence in the second half of the season makes it impossible to rate him any higher

6 – Song ZhiweiMidfielder – Goals: 2

7.5/10 Bought from Hangzhou Greentown at the start of the season, Song was Wuhan’s biggest Chinese pre-season signing and he did very well in his defensive midfield role. His primary job was breaking up opposition attacks and sitting between the entre backs when the full backs got forward. A simple task, but one that Song carried out quite successfully. He also showed his diversity when he spent a few games filling in for the injured Jacques Faty at centre back. He was no Vincent Kompany, but he did an adequate job there against the relatively low level opposition he faced.

7 – Luo YiMidfielder/Defender – Goals: 1

6/10 Luo’s rating is as high as you could possibly expect from a midfielder who spent the latter half of the season playing right-back. Unsurprisingly, the former Chongqing Lifan man offered a threat going forward but looked suspect defensively. Hopefully, Zall will sign a decent right-back this winter and Luo can go back to playing in a more advanced role.

Head Over Heels: Yao Hanlin (8) celebrates an excellent season

Head Over Heels: Yao Hanlin (8) celebrates an excellent season

8 – Yao Hanlin  – Midfielder – Goals: 5  

8.5/10 Easily Wuhan’s best Chinese outfield player this season, Yao always looked threatening whether it be sprinting in space the left or fighting his way through the centre. The Wuhan native gave Zall a pace and dynamism that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Particularly dangerous when allowed to run with the ball, Yao got plenty of assists to go with his five goals and he will be a pivotal player if Zall are to go one step further and get promoted next season.

9 – Tan Si Forward – Goals: 0

4/10 Being a Chinese striker in the Super League or League One is not easy as teams usually play one up front and that one is usually a foreign import. However, the general preference to move Zhu Ting into the central striking role if Wuhan’s South American forwards were either unavailable or underperforming, suggests that Tan’s lack of game time can’t merely be blamed on foreigners and conservative tactics. Generally limited to late substitute appearances, the forward’s brief forays onto the field did little to justify him being given a more expansive role in the team.

Keeping it Simple: One of eleven no thrills celebrations performed by Sergio Leal this year

Keeping it Simple: One of eleven no thrills celebrations performed by Sergio Leal this year

10 – Sergio LealForward -Goals: 11

8/10 It may seem a little unfair to give Leal a lower ranking than Yao Hanlin, but foreign forwards in League One are expected to shine brightly and the Uruguayan never did much more than glimmer. That doesn’t mean that he had a bad season, and he is clearly well above average at this level, but there were few if any games where he looked an outstanding performer that the opposition would truly fear. His tally of eleven goals looks decent considering that he missed several games, but that is inflated by the three penalties it includes. Able to play as both an attacking midfielder and centre-forward, Leal looks much more suited to the former role and, if he’s still around next year, one hopes he will play there more often.

No Need to Overreact: Zhu Ting (11) is restrained in the melee caused by his shove on Yi Lin (grounded)

“This isn’t like you”: Zhu Ting (11) is restrained in the melee caused by his shove on Li Yi (grounded)

11 – Zhu TingMidfielder – Goals: 3            –

7/10 Zhu is a versatile player who at various points this season found himself playing pretty much everywhere except centre back and goalkeeper. However, the former international full-back looked at his best on the right of the attacking midfield three. A strong physical presence, Zhu can be disruptive going forward, but despite playing a few games as striker, only managed three goals all season. His three game suspension in August for a sprinting shove on Beijing Institute of Technology’s Li Yi proves that he continues to suffer from the petulance which saw him humiliate himself in Shanghai last year and win the dubious honour of being ”s 2013 “Fool of the Year”.

13 – Kang ZhenjieMidfielder – Goals: 1

5.5/10 The young midfielder became a more regular feature in the side this season after making only one previous appearance for the club during last year’s Super League campaign. He was mostly limited to substitute appearances, but did get a couple of starts later in the season, even notching his first senior goal away to Qingdao Hainiu. It’s still too early to tell, but Kang definitely has potential to play a bigger role next year.

15 – Sang Yifei – Midfielder – Goals: 2

5/10 Sang started the year as a regular in the starting line-up but fell out of favour as the season wore on. His inability to establish himself as a starter in a midfield that was often bereft of creativity says a lot about the kind of year Sang had, At least he chipped in with a couple of goals.

16 – Wu YanGoalkeeper – Goals: 0  

9/10 One of several high quality goalkeepers to come out of Wuhan over the years (Guangzhou Evergrande and China number one Zeng Cheng among them), Wu had an excellent season in which he proved the difference in several close games. The most notable of these performances came in May when a string of good saves preserved a 1-0 home win against Shijiazhuang back that ultimately kept his team in the promotion race until the very last day.

Leading By Example: Wu Yan (front) and Jacques Faty (bak) both had very good seasons

Leading By Example: Wu Yan (front) and Jacques Faty (behind) both had very good seasons

19 – Jacques FatyDefender – Goals: 4

8/10 The only foreign player who stuck with Zall following 2013’s relegation, the Senegalese centre back had a much easier time of it this year. Popular amongst the fans, Faty’s reliability and leadership were emphasised in the several games he missed due to injury. Wuhan are less solid when he’s not there and the only real slight against him is that he looks very nervy when distributing the ball out from his feet.

20 – Li HangMidfielder – Goals: 4

6.5/10 A Wuhan Zall player his entire career, Li has failed to produce the kind of performances expected of a midfielder guaranteed his starting spot. Playing alongside Song Zhiwei in the withdrawn central role, the 25-year-old doesn’t have enough attacking influence on the game for someone who is well protected by his more defence minded partner. Despite being the third best team in the league, Wuhan’s midfield rarely took hold of games and Li’s lack of energy is at least partly responsible for that. However, he does pass the ball well and, as he demonstrated with his two long range goals at home to Xinjiang in April, is capable of the occasional moment of inspiration.

Dependable: Ke Zhao does his thing against Guangdong

Dependable: Ke Zhao does his thing against Guangdong

26 – Ke Zhao  – Defender – Goals: 0  

7/10 The first choice left-back did much better than his right-sided counterparts and was a consistent performer throughout the year. Ke is another 25-year-old who has only ever been at one club and Wuhan will be hoping that that’s still the case next season.

31 – Li GenMidfielder – Goals: 3

5/10 Li Gen got more and more game time as the season went on, but failed to impress in his pivotal midfield role. Seemingly unable to move the ball quickly, he was frequently responsible for slowing down potential Wuhan attacks by sending them either sideways or backwards. When he played, Li was also primarily responsible for set pieces but his deliveries didn’t offer a consistent enough threat considering the wealth of height available to him.

33 – Xiong FeiMidfielder – Goals: 0  

4/10 After joining on loan from Shanghai Shenhua in the summer, Xiong only started a couple of games and didn’t over himself in glory. When Song Zhiwei had to fill in as an emergency entre back, Xiong took over his defensive midfield position and looked very lightweight. His positioning was often poor and the game seemed to completely pass him by at times. Primarily a right back for Shenhua, it seems unfair on Xiong to be judged so harshly on a few games out of his main position. However, it must be remembered that right-back is not Zall’s strong suit and if Xiong can’t get any playing time there, it seems unlikely that he will as anything more than emergency cover anywhere else.

Expect the Unexpected: Tassio celebrates his first goal in a Wuhan shirt.

Expect the Unexpected: Tassio celebrates his first goal in a Wuhan shirt.

36 – TassioForwards – Goals: 3  

4.5/10 Oh, Tassio – where to begin? A big (literally and figuratively) summer signing from Brazil, it was hoped that the 6 foot 4 striker would get the goals needed to propel Wuhan into the Super League. Unfortunately, his touch, passing, work rate, positioning and aerial ability all seemed so laughably poor that many Wuhan fans thought his signing had been some kind of mistake. Lacking in confidence and relegated to the bench, the Brazilian came on at half time in the penultimate home game of the season and scored his first goal for the club. He followed it up with two more a week later and, with his starting role and confidence back, the big man put in a battling performance in the final game of the season. Although he didn’t score, Tassio was applauded by fans when he was subbed off in sense that many didn’t think possible a few weeks earlier.  Indeed, had this rating been given three weeks ago it likely would have been a 2 or 3 and if he sticks around through the winter, fans will be hoping that next season starts with the Tassio who turned up to the final three games of the season, rather than the one who lumbered his way through July, August and September.

Based in China for five years, Jamie has been exploring tiny little third tier Hubei cities without football teams or decent internet connections, but is now a regular at China League One side Wuhan Zall. A keen football afficionado, he regularly takes in the Chinese Super League, enjoying matches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing. Jamie is also a keen observer of the fortunes of the Chinese National side.

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