The winter transfer window is almost upon us and Changchun Yatai have some serious issues they need to address.
New manager Samvel Babayan is stepping into an interesting situation in Changchun, with the club missing promotion when they were a favourite for it and at least two key players not returning next season.
Here, I take a look at five of the most important things that Changchun Yatai will need to address during this upcoming transfer window.
1. Find Zivkovic a reliable partner
Richairo Zivkovic did pretty much everything that he could for Changchun Yatai last season, registering 16 goals and assisting on a further five in his 25 league appearances for the club.
The 23-year-old Dutchman led the line exceptionally well, forging a strong partnership with Tan Long.
The problem that Changchun Yatai now face is that reports suggest Tan Long is set to join a club in the Chinese Super League and the team’s other import attackers failed to impress.
Maurides suffered with a fairly lengthy injury that likely hampered his ability to settle while Stefan Drazic never seemed comfortable in the league and is likely to be moved on at the earliest opportunity.
If the club decides to retain Maurides, that would be understandable, but with reports suggesting an interest in a couple of foreign strikers, it looks as if a parting of ways is on the cards.
With this in mind, ensuring that the player(s) brought in to replace Tan Long and the likes of Maurides and Drazic are more than competent at this level and can provide the team with some legitimate offence.
2. Replace Zhang Xiaofei
When a club legend leaves, it inevitably brings up the difficult challenge of finding someone that can fill their boots and take on the role left behind.
For Changchun Yatai, they not only need to fill the role of left-back, but also that of club captain, something not easily done.
Fortunately, they may have some in-house options already available to them on both counts, though they will need to make sure that they are making the correct decision for both.
According to the same PPTV report that indicated Tan Long is set to leave, they mentioned that one Fan Xiaodong returned to fitness this past November and is ready to play for the club in 2020.
Fan Xiaodong was missed sorely at times this season, particularly in the centre of midfield, where he could have formed a reliable partnership with Zhang Li.
With his impending return, however, he may be required to step into his other comfortable position in order to provide cover for the departing Zhang Xiaofei.
Having Fan Xiaodong step into the departing captain’s position down the left seems like a sensible choice that would cost the club nothing, allowing them to focus their transfer budget on other areas around the team.
The harder decision, however, will be who can take on the captain’s armband on a full-time basis.
3. Name a new leadership group
The longer this takes the club, the more difficult life may be early on for Babayan, who will need to establish his leadership group in order to get players on side.
The club have three potential candidates for the captain’s armband at present, though a decision may be delayed until new faces are brought in.
Centre back Yu Rui has worn the armband in Zhang Xiaofei’s stead at times as vice-captain before, making him an obvious choice moving forward.
Zhang Li has also had time leading the team while Sun Jie and Fan Xiaodong could lay claim thanks to their experience and respective tenures with the club.
Babayan will need to determine who are the best role models for the club moving forward, with not just the captaincy but also the vice-captaincy needing to be decided before the start of the season.
My personal selections would be dependent on personnel’s overall fitness, with Fan Xiaodong being an ideal captain selection and Yu Rui deputising him.
Fan’s experience and tenure with the club has been positive outside of suffering a year-long injury. After being around for many seasons prior to moving to Changchun, Fan made his international debut in 2017, playing the best football of his career.
Whoever Babayan chooses, he will need to be sure they can step up into the coveted role and help be a leader on and off the pitch.
4. Address the team’s weak midfield
Midfield is often where many football matches are won or lost, with battles for possession crucial for a number of teams. For Changchun, this is where the 2019 season was lost, with the team giving up possession too easily in the middle of the pitch.
Zhang Li was the only reliable player in central midfield, seeing players such as Li Guangwen, Li Xiaoming and Sun Jun all rotate in beside him. Giving him a new partner that can play up to the same standard would help the team greatly moving forward.
A previous article pondered whether or not an approach for club legend Wang Dong could be the way forward, but Babayan will need to at the very least address the issue in some manner during the upcoming window.
5. Be ambitious
Changchun Yatai’s prime goal in 2020 is to win promotion back into the Chinese Super League. This is going to be made more difficult by the fact that Shenzhen and Beijing Renhe are entering the league.
In 2019, Changchun were arguably the favourites for promotion due to them narrowly suffering relegation, now they will have to contend with two other relegated teams as well as other contenders from last year, such as Guizhou Hengfeng and Zhejiang Greentown.
If Changchun Yatai have any hopes of getting close to promotion, especially with the loss of Zhang Xiaofei and Tan Long, the club will need to be ambitious with the transfers.
Targeting fringe players on Super League teams needs to be an avenue explored by the club, with plenty of skilled players eager for regular playing time and decent paydays.
Even an audacious bid for a recent club departee, He Chao, could be something to explore, with his transfer to Guangzhou Evergrande not panning out too well and resulting in another underwhelming loan spell with Jiangsu Suning.
However they do it, Changchun Yatai need to be more ambitious with the players they bring in and the owners of the club seriously need to consider spending more to make their targets of promotion a reality.