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Almost but not quite: Beijing Guoan player ratings 2014

This was a record breaking season for Beijing Guoan, one in which they came oh so close to a title win, but fell oh so short on the final day. If they would have had some of their key contributors for the entire season, it may have been a different story, but what a run it was. Here now are my player rankings for the season.

2 – Li Yunqiu – Defender – Appearances: 3(0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 1

5/10 The red card that he got in the opening moments against Changchun stands out in the mind,  but there’s also the Hangzhou match toward the end of the season where Li put in an excellent performance. With Zhou Ting announcing his retirement after the 2015 season, I expect we’ll be seeing more of Li next year. We’ll have to wait until next year to know if he’s capable of fully replacing Zhou.

3– Yu Yang – Defender – Appearances: 13(0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0

6.5/10 It appears Yu’s career with Guoan has come to an end, unfortunate as he served as the first choice defensive partner for Xu Yunlong for the first half of the season. Pacheco loved him, Stanjovic hated him, and it seems Manzano loved him until he hated him. Yu’s a serviceable defender who just doesn’t stand out.

4 – Zhou Ting – Defender – Appearances: 24(1) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 4 – Reds: 0

8.5/10 Despite his advanced age, Zhou was once again huge on the right wing throughout the season. He’s still capable of getting up the pitch and into the attack and even at 35 is one of the league’s best right backs. His retirement next season is going to leave a hole on the right.

5 – Darko Matic – Midfielder – Appearances: 28(1) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 0

9/10 It’s hard for me to be impartial when talking about Darko and so the score may be debatable, but few outfield players spent as much time as he did on the pitch this season and had the same impact. Many suspected this year would be his swan song in a Guoan shirt after Ha Dae-sung’s arrival, but he made sure he remained relevant and later in the season showed something we hadn’t seen yet, that he could also be active in the attack. He’s signed for next year and if he keeps things going, he’ll score a few more in 2015.

6 – Zhang Xiaobin – Midfielder – Appearances: 8(2) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0

6/10 He’s a decent enough footballer and good as part of a rotation, but not much more than that. Defensive midfield is a position Guoan has struggled at and are one of the few clubs who rely on two foreigners at that position for much of the season. Unfortunately, Zhang isn’t good enough to change that, at least against top sides.

8 – Joffre Guerron – Midfielder – Appearances: 9(1) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 2 – Reds: 1

6/10 Despite only providing two goals, his departure was a surprise as his speed always made him a threat and was something Guoan didn’t have a lot of. In the end it was probably the right move, but it took awhile to realize that, especially as he was a double digit goal scorer last year and wasn’t getting provided with great service.

10 – Zhang Xizhe – Midfielder – Appearances: 28(1) – Goals: 6 – Yellows: 6 – Reds: 0

7.5/10 Last year was a breakout season for Zhang, this year he showed signs of brilliance but could also disappear in the midfield. His scoring didn’t really pick up until the summer and his assists were down as well (7) this year. I’d like to rate Zhang higher, but considering how much he was on the pitch, I would expect more from him, but if he leaves in the offseason, Beijing will have a difficult time replacing him.

11 – Song Boxuan – Midfielder – Appearances: 10(6) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

6/10 After being a regular starter for Shenhua, it had to be a wakeup for Song as he spent much of 2014 on the bench. He’s great to have as a depth player, but I’m not sure how satisfied he is in such a role. Much like a few other players, he was basically ignored by Manzano during the second half of the season.

13 – Xu Yunlong – Defender – Appearances: 26(0) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0

9/10 Captain Beijing was once again a stabilizing presence in the center of Guoan’s defense, leading the line for the back four that gave up the least goals in the CSL. His penalty miss against Shandong in the CFA Cup quarterfinal was one of the rougher moments of the year, but he made up for it with a big goal against Jiangsu. Beijing doesn’t have a long term replacement for him, but if he keeps playing like he did this year, it will be awhile before they need one.

15 – Peter Utaka – Forward – Appearances: 13(7) – Goals: 3 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

2/10 Utaka scored three goals so it may seem harsh ranking him so lowly, but he was the one player that did fans’ heads in more than anyone during the first half of 2014 due to his prodigious ability to blow opportunities (more often than not by holding onto the ball too long or shooting straight at the keeper). Not many were sad to see him go and even fewer regretted it after how well the replacements did.

16 – Ha Dae-sung – Midfielder – Appearances: 21(3) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

7/10 Overall, his debut season in China was a success, Ha was highly capable defensive mid who didn’t hesitate pushing forward and joining the attack. He missed two months after coming back from the World Cup, a period of time when Guoan struggled. I’m doubtful how long after next year he’ll be in China for, but he’s a great presence for the time being.

17 – Pablo Batalla – Midfielder – Appearances: 17(0) – Goals: 8 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

6/10 This might be a little controversial as Batalla put up decent numbers for a midfielder, but looking back over how most of his goals came and his lack of setting up goals for others left me disappointed with the Argentine’s performance. It’s hard to argue with eight goals, but I still think Guoan played their best without him in the lineup.

18 – Lang Zheng – Defender – Appearances: 10(0) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0

6/10 Lang benefitted from Manzano’s dislike of Yu during much of the second half of the season, having only made three starts going into the World Cup break. He had more competition when the manager deemed Lei Tenglong to be match fit and ultimately played second fiddle to Lei down the stretch, but Lang always put in a solid, workmanlike performance when given the chance.

20 – Zhang Xinxin – Defender – Appearances: 9(1) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

5/10 Despite being younger than the other two aging Guoan defenders (Xu and Zhou), the 31 year old looked the oldest of the trio this season. It definitely seemed like he lost a step, never a good thing for a wing back and when an injury kept him out of the lineup, new signing Zhao Hejing made a strong claim for the position.

21 – Erton Fejzullahu – Forward – Appearances: 14(2) – Goals: 7 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

8/10 Nobody was quite sure what they were getting in Erton (including, perhaps, the front office), but the Swede quickly won over the Gongti faithful with a brace in his first half hour for the club. He provided a number of important goals down the stretch and with Dejan, formed the scariest strike pair in the CSL.

22  Yang Zhi – Keeper –  Appearances: 30(0) –  Goals: 0 –  Yellows: 1 –  Reds: 0

9/10 Once again Yang demonstrated why he is arguably the league’s top goalkeeper. He gave up less goals than any other keeper and played every minute this season for Guoan. Yang is very much the modern keeper, his ball distribution often ignites the attack and he likes to come out. Unfortunately, he likes to come out a little too much and it’s getting to be an issue that could come back to hurt Guoan.

23 – Chen Zhizhao – Midfielder – Appearances: 21(18) – Goals: 4 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0

7/10 When his signing was announced I was unimpressed but as the season went on, that changed quickly. He wasn’t given a lot of chances to serve as a starter, but he was a super option off the bench, bringing in pure speed on the wing when needed.

24 – Li Hanbo – Midfielder – Appearances: 4(3) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

5/10 He actually played this season? I will never forget him because when I ran into him around Gongti one day, I accidentally called him Wang Hao. That tells what an impact he left on the side this season.

27 – Dejan Damjanovic – Striker – Appearances: 16(0) – Goals: 10 – Yellows: 3 – Reds: 0

9/10 There was a lot o talk about how he “failed” in Jiangsu, but he still managed 5 goals in 11 matches, not a spectacular rate, but not all that bad. Dejan quickly changed that after arriving in the capital, scoring at a much more impressive clip and being a key part of the club’s success in the second half of the year.

28 – Zhang Chengdong – Midfielder – Appearances: 24(0) – Goals: 1 – Yellows: 5 – Reds: 0

8.5/10 Wait, he only scored one goal this year? My impression was that Zhang did far more than that, in fact I’d rate him as one of Guoan’s best players in 2014 and arguably the club’s player of the year. He was big bombing down the wing all year and creating plenty of threats, but also versatile enough to step back and cover at right back when Zhou Ting needed a rest.

29 – Shao Jiayi – Midfielder – Appearances: 21(18) – Goals: 3 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0

7/10 His late season heroics, most notably the winning free kick against Evergrande, are at the front of every Guoan fans’ memory, but now with some time since the close of the season, I think its easier to be more impartial about Shao’s performance in 2014. Despite his age, he was used regularly as a starter, especially in Asia, Manzano using Shao’s experience as a crutch while still getting to know his squad. He’s not the right choice as a starter, but he proved that he’s always dangerous coming off the bench and can be a match changer.

30 – Lei Tenglong – Defender – Appearances: 10(0) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 1 – Reds: 0

7/10 When Ah Lei returned from Portugal he was almost immediately slotted into the lineup and Manzano quickly took a liking to him, featuring him in pretty much every game from August on (with the exception of the 3-1 loss at R&F). Lei adjusted quickly and didn’t let his manager down, playing well and even earning a few national team callups.

31 – Zhao Hejing – Defender – Appearances: 25(1) – Goals: 0 – Yellows: 6 – Reds: 0

7.5/10 There wasn’t a lot of fanfare when Zhao signed for Guoan, but as it turned out, he was probably their best domestic signing in 2014. Originally it was thought he’d  only be a depth pickup, but when Zhang Xinxin went down injured, he took over the job with ease and made the position his. While he doesn’t get forward quite as much as Zhang, he was always solid in defense.

39 – Piao Cheng – Midfielder – Appearances: 18(9) – Goals: 2 – Yellows: 0 – Reds: 0

7/10 I’ve always been a fan of Piao’s so its hard to offer an impartial assessment of his play this year. After the opening month or so, Piao was out of favor with Manzano and had an uphill climb to get back into his good graces. When he was given a chance midseason, he came on strong, scoring goals in both matches he played in, however despite this blip of success, Manzano dropped him from the lineup again and left him out for most of the season from then on.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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