Changchun Yatai will spend another season in the Chinese second tier after suffering a hugely disappointing 4-1 defeat to Heilongjiang Lava Spring.
Changchun are joined by last season’s other relegated team Guizhou Hengfeng, who themselves had a shock collapse on the final day of the season.
Qingdao Huanghai and Shijiazhuang Ever Bright are the two teams earning the pleasing reward of playing in the top tier next season, while Changchun’s hierarchy will need to make some crucial decisions.
The first decision the club will need to make is whether or not they will keep Serbian Svetozar Sapuric at the helm.
Sapuric came in at a time where talk of a promotion hunt seemed to be a distant dream, with the club struggling to get results.
A ten-game unbeaten run followed his arrival and had Changchun Yatai sitting atop the China League One table, with confidence very high.
A run of mixed results ultimately saw Changchun fail to achieve their pre-season hopes of jumping back into the top tier at the first time of asking, but Sapuric could still be given another shot at promotion with the team.
The 59-year-old Serbian is very familiar with the club and the fanbase and understands what it takes to lead the team. His familiarity and proven record of decent results should work in his favour heading into the off-season.
The North-Eastern club have struggled to find consistency at the manager’s position and making yet another change may not be the best move for the club.
Retaining Talent and Personnel Changes
The biggest challenge now facing Changchun Yatai will be the club’s ability to retain the players that undoubtedly gave them the best chance of pushing for promotion across the season.
Tan Long, who finished the season as the team’s top goalscorer with 19, turns 32-years-old shortly after the start of next season and may want to have one last shot in the Chinese Super League.
He has been a reliable player since arriving in Changchun in 2017 and losing him would be a devastating blow for the club.
Equally, retaining Richairo Zivkovic, who himself scored 15 goals, will allow the team to build from an established attacking line that has plenty of chemistry and familiarity after a season together.
Whoever is ultimately named manager of the club will need to do their best to build a squad that can be more competitive.
Addressing weaknesses in midfield is a logical place to start and ensuring the other import players alongside Zivkovic can step up and provide far more consistently than either Maurides or Stefan Drazic did this year.
Whoever takes charge next season will need to upgrade various positions around the team and ensure that they hit the ground running next time.
Whether we see a new-look Changchun Yatai squad in 2020 or we see the majority of players returning, there will need to be some serious answers to the number of questions that fans will unsurprisingly have after a year in the second tier.