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Beijing Guoan

The case for and against Robert Schmidt

Roger Schmidt

Beijing Guoan announced the firing of manager Roger Schmidt last night, to be replaced by former Lyon manager Bruno Genesio. It comes as a shock to many, Schmidt led them to their first trophy in 10 years last season and has the team sitting in third place right now, four points off the leaders.

Let’s look at the reasons for and against the club making a change at this time.

Against

Roger Schmidt will live long in the memory of Beijing Guoan’s fans, but this move was the best for both the club and him. In firing him now, they save him from the potential disaster if he remained in charge for the rest of the year.

Schmidt’s struggles late in the season has been a constant issue since his arrival in 2017. Shortly after arriving he had the team on a roll, but then struggled late with three straight losses. Last season, despite being in the pole position halfway through the season, Schmidt only managed to lead the team to eight points in the last nine matches, a shocking figure. It’s been much the same this season, having led Guoan to 10 straight wins off the trot, the club has floundered as of late.

Some would argue losses in the last three matches are more down to losing both Jonathan Viera and Zhang Xizhe, two players hard to replace. However, the other challengers, Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou Evergrande have both struggled with key players going down (Hulk and Talisca) without slipping up in the same way.

Though Viera’s injury cannot be blamed on him, another issue has to be injuries. Maybe it’s due to his pressing style, maybe it is because of his not rotating players much, maybe it’s how he runs his practice or maybe it’s all three, but Guoan currently has five players who have varying degrees of muscle injuries.

Tactically there have been issues as well with Schmidt playing himself deeper into a hole and unable to adapt. With Cedric Bakambu in an utter downward spiral, he hasn’t thought of keeping him off the pitch and using two Chinese attackers instead, indeed he’s only played one and substituted them for each other. He has insisted on using Piao Cheng, even though his issues are numerous and Nico Yennaris, after having shown promise, has been lacking. Schmidt hasn’t really tried to change things up, instead doubling down, hoping that the players could change, the end result is the last three losses. His “strategy” as of late was basically that of a fan, pray for Renato Augusto to do something magical, but deliverance never came.

As Lee Jangsoo has always been remembered in a positive light, so will Roger Schmidt be if the club wins the league this season, it may have been a ruthless firing, but sometimes that is what’s called for.

For

10 straight wins, return to the Asian Champions League, the CFA Cup. Roger Schmidt is hands down the best coach Guoan has had in the last 10 years and possibly their greatest in the club’s history, doing him dirty like this, especially for a French nobody, is unjust.

You think Genesio can deliver a title to the capital? His first real match as manager will be against Guangzhou Evergrande and will decide the season. I’m not saying Schmidt was unfireable, but he should have at least been given until that match to turn things around, this is the worst possible time to change course.

Schmidt cannot be blamed for Bakambu’s sudden inability to score, even on an empty net. He cannot be blamed that the club’s only attacking midfielders, Viera & Zhang, were injured at the same time. Guoan has multiple defensive midfielders, but those two are their main attacking ones, now with the purchase of yet another defensive mid, Augusto will have to take up that role.

The German has also been one of the most tactically strong managers in the CSL. The club has won plenty of matches not due to their superior players, but due to the manager’s superior tactics and style of play. The reason why the team has gotten to the point they have is also down to the stability of keeping Schmidt for as long as they have, building up a strong understanding between manager and players. Further, unlike in the old days with Guoan, Schmidt has generally had an excellent relationship with the whole squad, changing things now is creating a degree of chaos the club cannot afford, better to trust in Roger.

Conculsion

Whether for or against, everyone can agree that Roger Schmidt is one of the best managers Beijing Guoan has ever had. It can also surely be agreed that Genesio, in his first job outside of France, now has his hands full. The club certainly have put pressure on him/given him motivation by limiting his contract to the end of this season. Whether he delivers or not, either way the fans will never forget Schmidt’s time in charge, coinciding with the re-emergence of Guoan.

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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