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Worker’s Stadium Revue: It could have been worse – Beijing Guoan 2016 ratings

After the discombobulated start to the 2016 season and fears about how bad it would get, Beijing Guoan ended up finishing fifth and only five points away from a spot in Asia. All things considered, it wasn’t THAT bad, but the level of mediocrity seen on the pitch made it difficult for fans to accept and yet another year with no trophies and no continental football makes it a long winter in the capital.

After the discombobulated start to the 2016 season and fears about how bad it would get, Beijing Guoan ended up finishing fifth and only five points away from a spot in Asia. All things considered, it wasn’t THAT bad, but the level of mediocrity seen on the pitch made it difficult for fans to accept and yet another year with no trophies and no continental football makes it a long winter in the capital.

The team struggled on the pitch and back room issues made it a soap opera for the first few months, Xie Feng came in and things improved somewhat but still didn’t deliver the necessary consistency.

Alberto Zaccheroni – 4/10 Manager – CSL record: Wins 2 – draws 3 – losses 4
I would have rated the Italian even worse, but I don’t think he was given a fair shot or fully given a chance to right the ship, then again, its kind of hard to right the Titanic. He was hired in late January, less than 2 months before the side played its first match, he had to deal with a handful of injuries, and a tough schedule to open the season. He was over his head from the start, not fully grasping what he got himself into or the internal issues that existed at the club and his firing was a foregone conclusion after only a few matches.

Xie Feng – 6/10 Interim Manager – CSL record: Wins 9 – draws 7 – losses 5 – CFA Cup: Quarterfinals
Credit where it’s due, Xie righted the ship and almost got the side back into the ACL, though the team struggled late in the season. Most of all, he was brave in dealing with a variety of backroom issues that could have seriously threatened Guoan’s season this year. He was a good steward, but was in no ways exceptional.

2 – Egor Krimets – 5/10 – Defender – Appearances: 28 (2) – Goals: 0
Nothing he did really stood out in 2016 but at the same time, he didn’t really hurt the side either and ate up a considerable amount of minutes with Xu Yunlong and Lang Zheng both out of the side for the majority of the season. His speed is still an issue and overall he’s not a world beater, but is a capable center back.

3 – Li Lei – 3/10 – Defender – Appearances: 14 (2) – Goals: 0
He’s still young, but as a regular at Henan previously, you would expect a little more out of him. When he was on the pitch, there was always reason to be nervous and was one of the reasons Beijing’s back four was one of the weakest in memory.

4 – Zhou Ting – 5/10 – Defender – Appearances: 10 (4) – Goals: 0
Injuries and the like kept him out for much of 2016 and its unfortunate because this was his final season. I wish this legend all the best, but sad to say, he probably had more to offer (when healthy) than his potential replacements this year.

5 – Ralf – 4/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 30 (0) – Goals: 1
The 32 year old replaced terrace legend Darko Matic (and took his number), but never completely filled his shoes and left a lot of people scratching their heads why the club made the change. It took him a long time to form an understanding with his teammates and he never showed himself to be worth what the club was paying him.

6– Zhang Xiaobin – 5/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 18 (4) – Goals: 1
A sweet goal against Chongqing won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He served as a good rotation player in the defensive mid position but never truly impressed.

7 – Zhang Chiming– 4/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 21 (16) – Goals: 1
This was his first full season in the capital and I was hoping to see more from him than what he delivered. A tidy option when looking to add speed in the midfield, he seemed more effective coming off the bench than as a starter. There were high expectations for him when he joined, but maybe they need to be seriously adjusted.

8 – Piao Cheng– 6/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 19 (3) – Goals: 1
As one of my favorites, Piao’s grade may be slightly higher than what it should be, but there were some real moments of brilliance, especially when he was moved up and paired with Zhang Xizhe. A bad injury cut his season short and may cost him part of the 2017 season, hopefully he can make a full recovery as, like it or not, he is a key part of Guoan’s side right now.

9 – Kléber – 3/10 – Forward – Appearances: 4 (1) – Goals: 0
Not much to say about him, brought in on the cheap late last season and basically spent most of his time on the bench. Never had any impact and basically a complete waste, fortunately unlike a certain Turkish forward, he was getting paid next to nothing.

10 – Zhang Xizhe – 7/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 25 (0) – Goals: 6
Hands down the team’s best player last year and arguably the same this year, though his performances were less impressive. The team lived and died based on his performances and it may have been too much pressure for him.

11 – Song Boxuan – 4/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 10 (4) – Goals: 0
Similar to Zhang Chiming, there was a hope that he’d come around and prove himself to be a more significant impact player, but the reality was very different. Perhaps this rating is based too much on that hope, but he’s shown himself to be a talented player from time to time, its just performances are far too inconsistent.

13 – Xu Yunlong – 4/10 – Defender – Appearances: 8 (3) – Goals: 0
A hard one, this. The longtime team captain spent most of 2016 on the bench or in the stands, but if some are to be believed, he was as much a part of the team’s downfall as anyone, due to Machiavellian moves behind the scenes (which, if true, would mean he gets a -5). He looked his age when on the pitch, though there were those rare glimpses of what he once was and its surprising he chose not to step aside at the end of the year, though it may just be pride and a desire to outlast Zhao Junzhe.

14 – Jin Pengxiang – 2/10 – Defender – Appearances: 4 (1) – Goals: 0
Really no reason he should be on the pitch for any team in the CSL, even if it means playing someone on crutches over him.

15 – Igor Sergeev – 4/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 12 (5) – Goals: 1
Perhaps he wasn’t fully adjusted to life in Beijing, but he never impressed and caused many to scratch their heads how anyone in their right mind could consider him one of Asia’s top players. He’s still very young and perhaps with time he can adjust to the game in China, but it seems too rough for him.

16 – Du Mingyang – 6/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 4 (2) – Goals: 2
The 23 year old made his CSL debut this year and did alright, including scoring a goal in the league and the cup. This year was a good start for him and hopefully will give him confidence to have a big 2017.

17 – Burak Yilmaz – 4/10 – Forward – Appearances: 17 (2) – Goals: 11
Looking back, the man scored 17 goals in 11 games and deserves a little more credit, but…I’m not the one to give it to him (though in retrospect, I’ve raised his grade up from a 1). He literally missed most of the start of the season due to “injuries” as he placed playing for Turkey in Euro2016 as more important than playing for the club paying him (or even showing up). When on the pitch he had a horrible attitude and if he could hit the broadside of a barn half the time, he would easily have 20+ goals instead of wasting tons of chances & earning the ire of Beijingers. Perhaps I should be more forgiving because all the time he spent away from the side meant he had to adapt to his teammates on the fly & it was his first (& likely only) season in China, but he didn’t prove himself worthy.

18 – Lang Zheng – N/A – Defender – Appearances: 2 (2) – Goals: 0
How do you rate a guy whose appearances in 2016 amounted to two minutes of extra time? A bad injury at the end of 2015 kept Lang out for most of the year, but one has to think that he could have been used more often than this.

19 – Yu Dabao – 6/10 – Forward – Appearances: 22 (0) – Goals: 4
His four goals and three assists in 2016 look alright on paper, though are slightly down from what the club has come to expect from him. At 28, it may be time to re-examine expectations of Yu, perhaps its too much to ask him to play a dominant role in the side like he did at Dalian and Tianjin and just hope he stays healthy and contributes from time to time.

20 – Zhang Xinxin – 5/10 – Defender – Appearances: 12 (1) – Goals: 0
Over the previous two years, Zhang only made 9 appearances (all in 2014) and had definitely lost a step. It appeared the 33 year old was close to retirement, but he was given a fair bit of playing time when Xie took over and performed decently enough as cover in the defense.

21 – Renato Augusto – 5/10 – Midfielder – Appearances: 23 (3) – Goals: 4
Every now and then we were treated to a bit of Augusto’s brilliance, but more often than not we were stuck with watching him sulk or throw a fit after a teammate didn’t do exactly what he wanted. He’s obviously very talented, but his talent and attitude may not be a good fit for China as his mistrust of the players around him often had him want to do everything by himself. It will be interesting to see what happens if he stays in the capital in 2017.

22 – Yang Zhi – 8/10 – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 30 (0) – Goals: 0
Yet again he was a rock at the back, playing in every match in 2016 with 13 clean sheets and leading Guoan to be behind only Evergrande in giving up the least amount of goals. While its easy to heap praise on him, its also cause for concern as he isn’t getting any younger and a clear successor hasn’t stepped up yet.

23 – Yang Yun – N/A – Midfielder – Appearances: 4 (4) – Goals: 0
It’s hard to rate him with so few appearances, but after a spell in Liaoning last year where he was given a chance to show what he can do, it was sad to see him used so sparingly this year. At 27, one of the side’s few Beijingers may need to fly the coop if he wants to be anything more than a guy getting a paycheck and pretending to be a footballer.

24 – Li Hanbo – N/A – Forward – Appearances: 5 (1) – Goals: 0
See above. At 25, he’s slightly younger than Yang, but he obviously isn’t a big part of Guoan’s plans and with their policy of only playing youngsters in the reserve team, it means he is basically only around to help in practices.

25 – Hou Sen – N/A – Goalkeeper – Appearances: 1 (1) – Goals: 0
Considering his 2016 season amounted to coming on off the bench for 45 minutes, its hard to say much about the big keeper. Granted he’s a back up keeper, but in eight seasons with Guoan he’s only made 20 appearances and 18 of those came in 2012 when Yang was injured in the preseason. It’s hard to imagine that he’s in the club’s future plans as the starter when Yang eventually steps aside.

28 – Zhang Chengdong – 7/10 – Midfielder/Defender – Appearances: 22 (1) – Goals: 0
No goals in 2016 is slightly disappointing, but then again Zhang spent much of the year in defense, taking over the position from Zhou Ting and putting forth a number of solid performances. Its hard to imagine a strong Guoan side without him as he has the potential to be a key leader of the side.

30 – Lei Tenglong – 8/10 – Defender – Appearances: 25 (1) – Goals: 1
A lot of pressure was placed on the shoulders of the 25 year old Lei this season and he showed he was up to it, staying healthy and solidifying the defense this year. If he remains healthy, he could have a long future as the leader of the defense in the capital.

31 – Zhao Hejing – 7/10 – Defender – Appearances: 26 (0) – Goals: 1
Last but not least, another defender who has really impressed with how solid he’s been. At 31, Guoan is still going to have to look for some future alternatives, but for the next few seasons, there’s no reason to think Zhao won’t keep delivering.

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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