Jiangsu Suning shocked the football world with their spending this winter making a major statement of intent as they build a powerful contender in the CSL. However despite the expected schadenfreude from the media and fans, expectations of the side getting off to a slow start were confirmed with a disappointing debut on their return to the Asian Champions League and a crushing loss in the Super Cup.
Only three short months after competing in the CFA Cup but it feeling like a totally new world after the upheaval caused by winter spending, Jiangsu took the field in the ACL with a lineup that had six changes from their cup winning side. The only remaining players were their core national teamers sans Wu Xi, who left for League One’s Quanjian.
Dan Petrescu struggled in his first year in Nanjing, with the side finishing in ninth place, only six points above relegation and if not for the cup run that saw the team bring home silverware, it’s unlikely he would have survived as manager. Now his challenge is using the talent he’s been given to put together a side that contend on three fronts and it’s unlikely Suning will that patient with him.
With only a few weeks for the eight new arrivals to acclimate with their teammates, it will be no small task for Petrescu to help the squad unite and play as one, however in the opening games even in one on one situations some of the newer arrivals have struggled. Working together as a team will take time, but if the club doesn’t have the needed patience to wait for it to happen, then things can go downhill fast.
The adjustment to China, both on and off the pitch, can be difficult for new foreign arrivals. The condition of pitches is often an issue, training and travel facilities are often vastly different from what players are used to in Europe and life off the pitch is very different. On top of that, the two or three foreign attacking players have the newfound pressure of being the player the team lives or dies by.
Before the Super Cup, a few players made visits to local Suning stores in Chongqing. It seems like a great way for Suning to make up for the huge investment made in them to use them as walking ads as much as possible and draw people into their stores, but if that is going to happen often, especially during road matches, it could quickly become a distraction for players.
After failing to win in their opening two matches, Jiangsu was able to pull out a victory last night, though Jeonbuk was able to come back and make things interesting in the end. Things aren’t going to get any easier this weekend as they host fellow title contenders Shandong Luneng and other than meeting Yanbian in two weeks time, their first month of the CSL season contains a number of challenging matches.
Jiangsu is sure to be up near the top of the table when the season comes to an end, but whether they are able to mount a serious challenge will depend on how quickly the new players are able to integrate with their Chinese teammates and work together.