The inimitable WEF Shenhua correspondent Steve Crooks takes a well-deserved holiday this week, so WEF founding editor Cameron Wilson deputizes for his blue comrade on North Terrace News as Shenhua face Liaoning at home on Saturday night. Will the rain-soaked SS Shenhua return from the international break in possession of their bearings, or will a rudderless ship drift closer to relegation rock? Read on if you’re not feeling seasick already.
If you’ve forgotten the last time you witnessed a solid Shenhua performance – you’re in good company. It certainly wasn’t last time out – NTN correctly predicted a miserable away defeat for Shenhua in Changchun. In possibly their worst performance of the season, the men in blue served up another bowl of unapettizing slops found left over in the ship’s galley. The customary staple ingredient, a toothless display upfront, was garnished with a bladder full of defensive ineptitude pissed into the mix by the dribbling genitals of Qiu Shenjiong and Wang Shouting.
The former stayed on the pitch for the whole 90 minutes to err again through slow reaction for Changchun’s third, whilst the latter was rightfully hauled off at half-time. Wang Shouting, making his first start of the year, didn’t take it lying down however – he took to his weibo account to criticise coach Gilliot by saying 45 minutes wasn’t long enough for anyone to rectify their mistakes. We’d love to say more about Wang, but it would risk libel. Unprofessional.
Joining in the horror show was Papadopulous, playing at centre-back. Presumably once a very solid Greek international, his injury-ravaged body seems no longer able to cut it at professional level. Li Wenbo was also playing in defence, somewhere. As usual his contribution wasn’t up to much.
Cahill – staying or going?
With the summer transfer window about to open, quota rules mean Shenhua can bring in two new foreign players – but only if they let two go. According to local media, Shenhua will bring in an out-and-out striker (something they don’t have at all present) and a compentent defensive midfielder (ditto). Why were these glaring holes not filled with the EIGHT new players Shenhua brought in the winter? Only the incompetent board knows the answer.
Demba Ba has been mentioned as a potential purchase. The injury-ravaged African is currently playing in the Turkish top league, the same competition as injury-ravaged Papadopulous, and treatment room frequentor Henrique joined the club from. But this week’s news says Shenhua’s interest in Demba has cooled – but more players from the Turkish league are being considered – defender Ersan Gülüm among them. Why the obsession with this league given that the club has already taken duds from it? The answer is most likely some agent is cosy with the club and money is being stuffed into the right pockets – the actual football a secondary concern as usual.
There’s furious speculation online at the moment as to the identity of who will make way. The Shanghai media believe Cahill will depart soon – but not to Shanghai Shenxin onloan, as was reported and then swiftly denied by the club. Cahill’s lack of success at Shenhua is not easy to explain. But the lack of professionalism at the club, combined with the fact he was the wrong type of player to sign in the first place, are the primary reasons.
Stopilla Sunzu may be one who is about to depart. Both the regular author of NTN and your correspondent agree he’s too similar to Li Jianbin – using their athleticism to cover concentration lapses, suspect positional awareness and a lack of experience. But then again Sunzu is an African Cup of nations winner and his problems in the Shenhua defence stem from communication and a lack of organizaiton – not his fault alone.
That he’s being considered for the chop is just another indication of the longstanding and complete absence of a long-term plan at Shenhua. The Zambian is only 25 and could be being groomed as stalwart centre half for years to come. Papadopulous is the fans’ choice as far as players to leave is concerned, but his status as an Asian player (born in Australia) in the 4+1 foreigner quota equazion, coupled with Cahill’s failure to ignite Shenhua, means the Greek is less likely to leave. Moreno is untouchable, Henrique less so but also unlikely to go.
The never-ending tactial conundrum faces Liaoning
Shenhua’s voyage of despair has taken a slight upturn in recent weeks with the return of injured crew members Cao Yunding, Zhang Lu and Lv Zheng to the under-manned deck to face Liaoning. Zhang may be a midfielder really, but the unfortunate truth is that he’s still better than natural right-back Xiong Fei who unfortunately hasn’t shown he can make the spot his own. Lv Zheng was trumpted as a speedy winger from a top CSL team, yet, despite his ability with the ball at his feet, he could’t cross a road, and his shooting is poor. Cao Yunding continues to be this season’s revelation – his return to form is long overdue. However, his good form is wasted in a lop-sided squad.
Shenhua’s lack of an out-and-out striker is likely to continue to haunt them this Saturday. With no word on Henrique recovering, Cahill seems likely to lead the line. Moreno, Cao Yunding and Lv Zheng forming an attacking midfield triumverte behind him. Sunzu was injured whilst away on international duty and is doubtful. Gilliot is under great pressure from the terraces to drop Qiu Shenjiong in favour of Geng Xiaofeng in goals – no-one seems to know why Geng has been overlooked so much this season. Gilliot’s decision or club favouritism and politics? Who knows.
reality rain check
The pressure is on your correspondent to uphold the honour of NTNs impressive record in predicting the result. The international break has given Shenhua a couple of weeks to regroup and retool, but the imminent summer transfer window brings with it yet more inevitable changes and may be a bit of a distraction in terms of squad mood. And squad mood is critical at the moment
Liaoning are a fair to middling CSL side tied for points with Shenhua at the moment and really a team the Hongkou side should be looking to beat at home. The dongbei team’s coach Chen Yang faced resignation calls from his own fans for his side’s 2-0 reverse at home to Hangzhou in the last round – so its a pressure match for both coaches. A dull 1-1 draw is this week’s NTN prediction.
Finally, anyone in the Yangtze river delta region will have noticed the rainy season has begun in earnest this past week. With three of the areas five teams at home – Shenhua, Shanghai International Port Group, and Hangzhou, there’s many games which may face adverse weather conditions. However for those new to the CSL, games are very, very rarely postponed due to rain. So make sure you take your umbrella.
Shenhua in 2015 according to North Terrace News:
P 13 W 5 D 2 L 6 GF 17 GA 16 GD +1 Pts 17
Shenhua in 2015 according to the CSL table:
P 13 W 4 D 3 L 6 GF 15 GA 22 GD -5 Pts 15
Steve Crooks is WEF’s Shanghai Shenhua correspondent. Check his North Terrace News column each week for the latest club developments.
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