Changchun Yatai appear to have concluded their transfer business ahead of the 2020 China League One season.
Now that manager Samvel Babayan has a full squad to select from, there will be plenty of questions over who the Uzbek coach will choose for his starting eleven once the season finally kicks off.
Assuming that Changchun Yatai will operate a 4-2-3-1 system, I took a look at what their possible starting line-up could be assuming all players are fit and ready to go on day one of the new season.
Goalkeeper: Shi Xiaotian
Unsurprisingly, Shi Xiaotian will retain his job as the team’s first-choice goalkeeper in 2020, having played the entire 2019 season between the posts for Changchun.
The former Liaoning FC stopper put in a number of crucial saves for the club and was a clear upgrade over Wu Yake and Dong Yifan, who will continue to compete for minutes in the CFA Cup.
His quality in goal helped keep the Northeastern team in a number of close matches and the hope will be that the 30-year-old can continue to be the guy they saw throughout 2019.
Right Back: Yan Zhiyu
This position has been one with many questions over the years, with Zhe Jiang being the team’s most consistent player in the role before leaving when the team was relegated.
Yan Zhiyu grew into the position across the season, competing initially with Xue Ya’nan for the starting job before winning out and being a steady player out wide.
He can make some poor decisions, usually reckless challenges, and lets his emotions get to him at times, but overall is a reliable player at this level.
Centre Back: Sun Jie
Arguably the prime candidate to be the team’s new captain after Zhang Xiaofei’s retirement, Sun Jie remains a key player for Changchun Yatai’s defence in 2020.
Losing him to an unsuccessful spell in Norway early in 2019 arguably hampered the club’s attempts to win promotion back into the CSL, with form being largely inconsistent before his return home.
Sun Jie is a reliable defender and has been with the club for his entire career, making him a lock to claim one of the two starting centre back roles on the team.
Centre Back: Zhang Yu
While Changchun Yatai saw Yu Rui depart in the winter transfer window, removing their other most reliable centre back in many years, Babayan brought in a player with plenty to prove in Zhang Yu.
The Beijing Guo’an product has experience in the CSL but has been unable to earn regular first-team minutes in the capital. He has looked steady during the preseason and should form a strong partnership alongside Sun Jie during the 2020 season.
Left Back: Fan Xiaodong
Fan Xiaodong has been absent from the first-team for over a year after suffering an injury that required extensive treatment in Germany.
He returned to fitness just after the end of the 2019 season and posted on social media his determination to help the team the following year, something that he can do while stepping into the vacant left-back position.
Losing Zhang Xiaofei is painful for the fanbase, but having Fan Xiaodong return and provide his experience and quality at this level in the defence should give the team one of the best back fours in the entire league.
Central Midfielder: Zhang Li
Easily the team’s best option in the heart of midfield last season, Zhang Li retains his starting role when the team takes to the field in 2020. With 69 league matches now under his belt with Changchun, he will continue to be a reliable player in the new season.
Central Midfielder: Chen Po-Liang
One of the team’s newest additions in the winter transfer window, Taiwanese international Chen Po-Liang appears to be the perfect partner to put alongside Zhang Li in the middle of the pitch.
The former Zhejiang Greentown captain found himself without a club after the fellow China League One team cleared house and decided to aim for a younger squad.
Chen turns 32 in August but clearly still has plenty of football left in him and will now have the chance to push for promotion with Changchun, providing clear leadership qualities in an area that desperately needed this upgrade.
Right Winger: Tan Long
Last season’s China League One MVP remains with the team in 2020 after looking certain to leave in December/January.
A move to Beijing Guo’an reportedly fell apart and Tan Long returns to try and secure promotion for Changchun at the second time of asking.
His ability to score goals from a wide position makes him easily the most valuable Chinese player on the team, with 18 goals leading the team in 2019.
Attacking Midfielder: Serginho
Another new addition to the team, Brazilian Serginho looks to be a crucial member of his new team already. His position as a second striker should provide the team with plenty of support in the attacking third, something they lacked at times during the 2019 campaign.
Forming a strong partnership with Tan Long and the team’s striker will be crucial to success in 2020 and Serginho’s own ability to score goals and win trophies should give Changchun Yatai a real threatening attack this season.
Left Winger: Yang Chaosheng
Used primarily as an impact sub last season, Yang Chaosheng seems to have won over his new manager and should replace Zhou Dadi as the team’s first choice on the left-wing.
Yang was a great agitator in the league last season, frustrating opposition defenders with his elusiveness and determination to retain possession. He should have been used more often in 2019 and now looks set to finally be the starter under Babayan.
Striker: Aaron Olanare
Yet another crucial addition to the team this past transfer window, Aaron Olanare had a strong 2019 season with Sichuan United. The Nigerian striker scored 19 goals in 27 games in China League One last season and now has higher quality players around him on his new team.
Working alongside Serginho, Tan Long and Yang Chaosheng should give Olanare plenty of opportunities to hit the back of the net regularly in 2020 and continue his strong performances in Chinese leagues.