Having finished 2015 in 10th place, Changchun Yatai have begun making early moves for a better 2016 campaign.
Changchun improved their league standing last year, having finished 14th and 13th the previous two seasons, and are now looking to return to the level that fans expect of them.
8th place appears to be the long-desired position for Changchun’s higher-ups, as it shows the team is now safely a mid-table team that can look to be more adventurous and ambitious as it moves forward.
In recent years, fans have begun to worry about the team potentially suffering an unthinkable relegation and falling into footballing obscurity.
But with Slaviša Stojanović, the former Red Star Belgrade manager, now at the helm the club is beginning to make player moves that could set them up for a fairly successful 2016 league campaign.
To start moving forward, sometimes taking a step back is what is needed.
In the case of Changchun Yatai, that meant allowing star midfielder Szabolcs Huszti’s contract to expire without any offer of an extention.
Huszti has returned to the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt and will be sorely missed by fans, who considered him to be the best player the club had.
But with Huszti approaching his mid-thirties, a change was undoubtedly expected by many.
It will now be Stojanović’s task to replace the former Hungarian international, who had such a big influence on matches for the North-East club.
Suring up the Defence
Prior to last season, I spoke about how Changchun needed to improve two key areas if they wished to progress in the league: defence and attack.
Last season saw the club bring in Bolivian striker Marcelo Moreno, who scored 9 goals in his first campaign, along with 6-goal Niger international winger/striker Moussa Maâzou.
Having improved their goalscoring, the team still struggled from sloppy defensive showings in matches that they could easily have won otherwise.
Ma Xiaolei was brought in from China League One and was often looked to as a right-back in replacement of Jiang Zhe, but was extremely poor in his 13 league appearance at this position after receiving a red card on his debut.
With former fan-favourite Lu Jianjun long-gone, the club have finally looked to bring in an experience right-back in the form of Hong Kong international Jack Sealy.
Sealy, born in London, has played his entire football career in Hong Kong after moving there as a 12-year-old.
Having most recently played for South China AA and earning 12 caps for his adopted nation since 2013, Sealy will be looking to make the step up to take over Changchun’s starting right-back position.
His international experience could prove valuable for the North-East outfit, with Jiang Zhe preferring to play in midfield instead of as a right-back.
Changchun have also brought in Chinese Taipei international centre-back Yen Yaki. Yen, 26, has played much of his career in Spain’s lower leagues after being born in the European country.
Along with bringing in Sealy and Yen, Changchun have begun looking to the near-future.
Fan Xiaodong has made the move north after leaving fellow CSL rivals Hangzhou Greentown, with Fan capable of playing as a both a left-back and left-midfielder.
Changchun’s starting left-back, Zhang Xiaofei, is approaching 34 and with his loss of pace over the last couple of seasons it looks likely that the 7-times-capped Chinese international’s career is coming to a close.
Changchun’s depth in defence is at an all-time high and could be one of the team’s stronger areas in the coming season.
With one foreign import space available, it will be crucial for Changchun to bring in a positive influence either in midfield of up front if they wish to continue building on last season’s improved performances.
With Hungarian international Akos Elek having been relegated to primarily substitute appearances last season, it could be reasonable to expect that he may also depart.
This would allow Changchun more freedom to bring in other foreign imports that can have a big impact.
Making the moves and changes that the club needs early is a positive sign for fans of the north-east club, hoping to see their beloved team climb back into the top-tier of the CSL.
It’s just a matter of waiting to see if the changes are enough.