As another defeat, this time at the hands of Shanghai Shenhua, leaves Hangzhou propping up the CSL table, are Hangzhou doomed to relegation, or will the summer transfer window arrive in the nick of time to provide hope ahead of Hebei China Fortune’s trip to Zhejiang?
Ba hat trick highlights gulf in class at Hongkou
Matthew Spiranovic’s recovery from injury and Tim Cahill’s return to his former side did little to inspire Hangzhou Greentown to victory in round 13 of CSL 2016.
A strong opening 10 minute display was as good as it was going to get for the traveling Greentown faithful as Shanghai Shenhua ran riot. Despite the best efforts of young goalkeeper, Zou Dehai to keep Hangzhou’s local(ish) rivals at bay, the pressure eventually told. Alongside a particularly crunching Cahill tackle, Zou was one of few bright spots in a game where Hangzhou once again failed to threaten the scorers, albeit against a far better side.
Once Demba Ba opened the scoring shortly before half time, heading home Cao Yunding’s cross, it was all downhill for the visitors. After the break, Ba went on to secure himself a hat trick and substitute Obafemi Martins added a fourth in what would have been a cricket score, had Shenhua not wasted a number of good opportunities.
Without a win and only having scored three goals since round three, Greentown have reached the stage of desperation where on-field team meetings after the final whistle seem like a good idea. It’s going to take a motivational speech of Daenerys Targaryen-esque proportions to turn things around but whatever Hong’s words of inspiration were on that Hongkou turf, it is going to have to hit home otherwise Greentown look in serious trouble.
Open the chequebook or trust the squad to come good in crucial transfer window for Greentown?
The Greentown hierarchy having thus far proved reluctant to implement a change in management, means Hong Myung-Bo could be in lie to receive significant backing in a transfer window which has arrived not a moment too soon for the beleaguered Greentown.
There is no doubt that Chairman, Song Weiping needs to dig deep if Greentown are to have a chance heading into the second half of the season. However, fans remain fearful that the club does not have the funds to mount even a semblance of a meaningful foray into the transfer market.
We may be unaware of finances behind the scenes but it is obvious that lurching from game to game, seemingly without the confidence or ability to secure a result, means an injection of quality is sorely needed.
Where should Greentown look to strengthen?
Goalkeeper and centre backs aside, Greentown would benefit from reinforcements in every position. However, with the potential return of out and out striker Anselmo Ramon on the horizon, Greentown can gamble on not splashing out on a forward. Instead, their focus should be on a struggling midfield which is in desperate need of new faces.
Defensive midfield: Dropped against Shenhua, defensive midfielder Huang Xiyang, is one of many players who are indicative of a squad short of both quality and form. In a position as crucial as his, and with Chen Zhongliu not having appeared in over a month, the addition of a physical, defensive midfielder is a must. Feng Gang, too lightweight for the centre, yet too ineffective out wide, would benefit from playing alongside such a player and unlocking some form from him will be imperative to Greentown’s survival hopes.
Attacking midfield: Whether or not a space were to appear with the so far unannounced but likely departure of Tim Cahill, a new face in attacking midfield is crucial. Winter signing, Denilson Gambionetta has proved a failure and Greentown could do worse than cut their losses and part company with the frustrating Brazilian. Rumours today suggest that Guangzhou Evergrande are looking to complete the £1.5m signing of QPR’s Massimo Luongo. While Guangzhou are no doubt a far more attractive prospect, if this unexpected transfer were to happen, this is exactly the sort of signing Greentown should be looking at as an example of the calibre of players potentially available and willing to come to the CSL.
Right wing: With previous incumbent Chen Po-Liang out with injury and Luo Jing absent with both form and fitness related issues, the addition of a right winger would provide a much needed outlet with which to supply Ramon. If the Brazilian is not to be starved of service upon his return, something needs to change.
Despite Hangzhou being lovely this time of year (do you think Messi has heard of West Lake?), it’s no secret that Greentown are lacking in the financial muscle available to many of their CSL rivals. This, along with their current precarious position means that even the newly pimped out, G20 ready Hangzhou, hardly represents an attractive proposition for foreign or Chinese players alike. Therefore, Greentown’s survival hopes are likely to depend on how quickly Ramon can get up to speed post-injury and the reintegration of injured and out of form players such as Luo Jing and Zhao Yuhao.
New boys Hebei head to Huanglong in flying form
Hebei head into round 14 second in the table following a so far hugely impressive debut CSL campaign. With money to spend, they acquired and have successfully integrated a number of foreign stars, most notably, Ezequiel Lavezzi alongside young Chinese talent in the shape of Ding Haifeng and established CSL players, such as Jiang Ning and Du Wei.
Boasting the league’s top Chinese goalscorer in Dong Xuesheng and the dangerous Ivorian, Gervinho, the talent present throughout the Hebei side is to be envied.
Unless Greentown come out on all cylinders and produce an outstanding performance, they simply do not have the quality to secure points from this clash. Dwindling attendances and a complete absence of confidence from the (largely empty) Huanglong stands, means the stadium is hardly a cauldron of passionate support Greentown could feed off. Hebei arrive in excellent form and therefore Greentown are likely to suffer another heavy loss, sadly, 0-3 to Hebei appears the most likely result.