Chinese column – Shenxin win important Derby

With a goal in the first minute, Shanghai Shenxin won the ‘Mini Shanghai-Derby’ against Shanghai East Asia and all three Shanghai-teams are now close to a new season in the CSL.

A solid defense was the key
Shenxin started the Derby with a direct deep ball towards number 8 Jailton and after a cross, number 18 Sun Kai scored an own goal and Shenxin took the lead after just 37 seconds. Bad defending by East Asia, who clearly were not ready for the early played deep pass.

After this goal, Shenxin had only one game plan – to secure the three points, take no chances at all and only play long passes towards the fast Jailton and hope for the best. And looking back now – we can conclude that this destructive tactic won the game for Shenxin Saturday night in Shanghai.

The Shenxin system looked like a 4-3-2-1 formation – also called the “Christmas three formation” due to its visual look like a three, but it was difficult to analyze as they also used a 4-2-3-1 in some periods with two clear defensive midfielders in number 6 Marrone and number 16 Yu Tao. These two players were the key in the Shenxin organization with the aim to close down the center of the pitch, don’t allow any space in between and tackle or foul every player trying to get pass them.

The defense was as always structured by number 26 Johnny and the Brazilian is verbally very important for the defensive organization. Sometimes he is too aggressive breaking the defensive line too early leaving a big risk behind, but he has leader potential and played a great game against East Asia.

The left full back number 11 Jiang Zhipeng had a difficult job closing down the East Asia number 7 Wu Lei, but the left back was clever and stayed close to the central defenders, so he never came in 1:1 situations with Wu Lei, who we barely saw in the match.

Shanghai East Asia’s main problem was that when you face an opponent standing very low closing down the center of the pitch, you have to bring up your full backs as the ‘new’ wingers and play on the outside of the opponent’s organization. In this game the two full backs number 18 Sun Kai and 2 Li Yunqiu started from a too defensive position, so they never managed to make it up as the new wingers, which is crucial if you want to attack a defensive organization. You have to use the wide of the pitch as the opponent close down the center.

Second problem for East Asia was the tempo of the short passing. Way too slow. East Asia did not play hard passes and used individually too many touches on the ball before they made the next pass. And two or three touches on the ball is enough for the opponent to regroup and reorganize their team, so you never give them trouble.

Remember that football is about catching the opponent out of balance and most chances are created by creating a local majority somewhere on the last third of the pitch. A 3:2 or a 2:1 situation and when you are playing too slow – the opponent always stays in balance and you can never create majority situations.

So a disappointing and frustrating night for East Asia and a vital win for Shenxin, who seems almost safe now and ready for a new CSL season, so after all a good season for the three Shanghai-teams.

Bad Guizhou mentality were punished
Number 4 in the league from Guizhou were in control against Shanghai Shenhua, but chose the wrong tactic and tried to defend it home and wait for the clock to run out. And that gave Shenhua momentum and a 2-1 win in the end.

Guizhou were clearly a better team in the first half and gave Shenhua problems in the pre-predicted areas like set pieces and crosses in the far post area. Number 9 Muslimovic and number 11 Jorda are great headers with a physic difficult to handle for most Chinese defenders.

It looked like a secure away win – also due to Shenhua not performing any good. What is the team offensive plan? What is their concept on the last third? I can’t see it. It looks like the Shenhua players play on their individual intuition and sometimes it’s a good solution – sometimes not. This is just too random a tactic for professional teams.

Guizhou could have put in a lot of energy in the second half to close the deal so to speak, but instead the away team were extremely defensive with 10 men behind the ball looking at the clock to just secure their 1-0 lead. They tried to play on counter attacks which was a foolish idea with strikers like 11 Jorda and 9 Muslimovic. Good strikers as mentioned before, but also as far as they can from being technically good and useful in a counter phase, where you need speed and flair. Number 21 Yu Hai literally stopped running in the second half, while number 4 Sally had more focus on discussing with the Shenhua fans than playing football and protecting the goal, so the Guizhou team were falling apart.

Sometimes football is a cruel game and two penalties gave Shenhua the win totally out of nothing, but as a professional coach, you have to find and choose the patch way providing your team the biggest chances of success, and I do believe the Guizhou head coach failed doing the exact opposite in the game on Sunday.

Shenhua were lucky of course, but they are also a mentally strong side, who take a chance if you give them one. This is not the first time this season that a rarely bad performance has ended with a Shanghai-win at Hongkou Stadium. And that is not a coincidence.