Chinese column – Batista, Evergrande and Zhu Jiong

A very turbulent week for Shanghai Shenhua with a new head coach coming in, and also the Argentinian assistant coach and physical coach left the club together with Sergio Batista. Luckily the team got one point after a bad game on Saturday in Tianjin, but dark shadows are still hanging over the club.

To change a head coach in the middle of the season is never an optimal situation and just 24 hours before an important away game is neither a good pre-match warm up for them club, team or players. Imagine what the players of Shenhua have been talking about in the air-plain? Probably not the important game coming up, but instead the head coach was leaving and a club in a mess.
Shenhua got a point thanks to the goal from number 9 Dady, but Shenhua did not play well, and again Wang Dalei kept his team in the game with several top saves. Imagine Shenhua without Wang Dalei this season… Not a nice picture.

The Batista-era
When we analyze the period for Shenhua under Batista, we must say that the Argentinian coach has overall had a very difficult job. A lot of the topics regarding Shenhua have not been on the pitch, but off the pitch topics, which is a bad situation for a head coach. It is disturbing and the players can lose motivation and focus.

Batista had a solid squad last season with Anelka, Moreno and Drogba as the foreign players, but the team never managed to find their style or how to play Drogba correct, so he could score more goals and be a defying player for the team which he should be in China.

This season, in my opinion, Shenhua have over-performed. The squad is not strong and they lack especially offensive qualities, so I have been impressed by the results from Batista so far this season. I’m not impressed by their style or concept, but their results. There is a big difference here as I do believe what Batista has lacked is in terms of a clear concept for the team.
I did an analysis some weeks ago to find out how Shenhua score their goals and how the team concedes their goals, and the concept was after this analysis not clear from Shenhua. It seems like the players act on their personal intuition and not from methods from the training ground. And this is not good on the top level.

As a coach, I know that all coaches have their own style and their own way of doing things, and my way is not necessary better than others, but I must admit that I think Batista has a too laidback style. When I have watched the team, I don’t see a coach, who really has a desire to develop the players and improve the team. Maybe because he disagrees with the club owners – I don’t know – but I missed some passion and a clear concept at his time in Shenhua.

I’m not even sure that Batista was aware of how his own team scores their goals. My analysis shows that 50 % of their goals came from the left side, and 40 % of them from number 8 Song Boxian. And in the game against Guangzhou Fully, Batista changes Song to play in the right side of the midfield. In my opinion; completely wrong, because the statistics shows that the team often scores when Song plays to the left side. This is for some readers maybe a small detail, but a detail that can define success or failure in top football. And this is also why Shenhua and Batista in his era as the main problem have had way too many draws. No concept or continuity will over the time make the results go down.

For Shenhua now; the only goal in the rest of the season is to fight to avoid relegation. They are still 7 points ahead of Tianjin, but the button teams have started to get points now; Changchun with 7 points in 3 matches, and Wuhan with an important 2-1 win against Jiangsu on Saturday. And Shenhua has not momentum – the team seems unable to get the three points as we speak, which can be a problem for them with 14 matches to go.

Evergrande and 28. Kim Young-Kwon
One of my favorite players in the CSL is the Evergrande defender number 28 Kim Young-Kwon. The 23 year old South Korean is far the best defender in the Chinese league, and it could be very interesting to see him move to a big league in Europe in the future.

On Saturday, I watched Evergrande and Kim Young-Kwon, and he are some of my scouting notes on him:

Technical: He plays with his preferred left foot, but the right is also useful in short areas. His short passing is very good, always secure and with hard passes on the ground. Three times in the match he tries with a long cross pass to Gao Lin in the right side, and two of the passes succeed. In the building up phase, he is very important for Evergrande with his overview and quality passes. Very good first touch as well.

Tactical: The obvious leader in the Evergrande defense. Every time Shanghai Shenxin played the ball backwards, you could see how Young-Kwon was sprinting forward, “stealing meters” and with his voice and arms he told his teammates in the back four to do the same. Also very clever to read the game, to read the opponent passes, so he often is the player for Evergrande to win the ball and start their dangerous interception and counter attack phase.

Physical: Young-Kwon is fast, strong in the body and with a very good timing in his jumping, so for a central defender, he has an almost perfect physic. His endurance most be good too as Head Coach Lippi choses him for almost every game, which shows that Young-Kwon can play twice a week.

Mental: Extremely calm. One of my favorite skills for a central defender. Young-Kwon never panics or kick the ball away, he tries to play and look for the best solution in all situations. And of course he has developed a DNA of a winner playing for Evergrande and winning so many games.

Future: I could see Kim Young-Kwon move to either England or Germany, where the style of football would fit him. He has the physics and tempo in his style to in a 6-12 month period to adapt to a better league. I consider Kim Young-Kwon as a top defender in Asia and one of the best I have seen in CSL, J-league and K-league.

Zhu Jiong
On Sunday the Shenxin head coach was fired. I must admit I’m very surprised about this step by the club. Shanghai Shenxin is a low budget club in the CSL and with a squad full of talented young players, so I’m not sure why the club would kick the coach out, and I think Zhu has done a solid job in a small club.

Of course: We don’t know which goals and aims the board and coaching staff have set for the team before the season, but I don’t assume they could expect a much higher league position than the current one. It’s very simple: The players and the squad are not much better than their current position.

And the 1-6 defeat to SIGP was an ugly spot, but I like the style of the team and the fact that they give young players the chance to play CSL football.
No matter what Zhu Jiong is a good and modern coach and maybe he could be involved in some way as the national coach of China. This could be interesting, because we sometimes have to look away from results and the short thinking in football and see the bigger picture over time. This is where China is right now, and Zhu could help the country think forward and prepare the next generation.

CSL update
I liked the first half from Shenxin against Evergrande. No fear from the young team – just optimism and actually they created 3-4 good chances. Of course in the end the top team won, but I think the coach of Shenxin has an interesting team with some young, talented players. One of them could be number 47 – the winger – who I have not seen before Saturday evening. Very interesting type.

Liaoning gave Guangzhou Fully the first defeat under new coach Sven Göran Eriksson, and Fully still have some problems with the lack of creativity from their wingers. They need more quality crosses in the box for Yakubu and Rafael Coelho. But the team is much better structured and their pressure phase is now in place after the new coach has taken over.

Wuhan got an important victory against Jiangsu, who lost for the second time in a row to a promoted team, and as I analyzed in my column last week, Jiangsu need to develop their style and concept to keep getting the same good results as last season. They can’t even control the game when they play against promoted teams.

Also Changchun got a point against Hangzhou with their third game without a loss, so very tight in the button of the league table, and we have 14 interesting rounds to go.